Dispatches, during its annual address to the Augean Stables of the Professional Poetry Industry, stumbled upon a shocking bit of information as we were shoveling through the accumulation of official bullshit. We thought it might be (it ought to be) of interest to our readers, both those who admit to perusing our pages and those who don’t.

A series of Google searches for the personal and professional bios of the Poetry Foundation Board of Trustees, past and present, along with those of the PF’s two Presidents to date, reveals that nearly every last one of them is intimately tied to the highest circles of corporate and financial power, with some security state administration thrown in for good measure. We were shocked, shocked we tell you, to find the ruling class in charge of US American poetry.

As we reported in September of 2017 (and as Juliana Spahr has “revealed,” too, in her new book, Du Bois’s Telegram: Literary Resistance and State Containment, lifting from Dispatches without acknowledgment—but that’s OK), the current President of PoFo, Henry Bienen, has been Consultant for the State Department, the National Security Council, the Agency for International Development, the CIA, the World Bank, and Boeing (the Poetry Foundation, go figure, chooses to omit these associations in its own public bio on Bienen).

Bienen replaced the Foundation’s first President, John Barr, a venture capitalist with ties to the Enron scandal of the 1980s and 90s. Barr was at least a poet: the author of a book of verse written entirely in blackface (see “Black Face and the Poetry Foundation”), and a writer of culturally reactionary polemics published in Poetry Magazine and elsewhere, where he excoriates navel-gazing elitist poets who write in “abstract forms” and don’t get out enough in the world, like Ernest Hemingway used to, as he puts it, on game-hunting safaris. He is infamous for loudly and proudly proclaiming—without irony—that “the mind is a marketplace.” His no doubt is. (We recall with a slight shudder the marketplace in Mazatlán, in fact, with its 3” thick carpet of squirming cockroaches.)

As President, Bienen reports to the current Chair of the Poetry Foundation’s Board of Trustees, Willard Bunn III, Managing Director of Colonnade Advisors, an investment firm. Bunn III has served as chairman, CEO, and/or director of several commercial banks in the course of his 40-year financial career, with chief executive stints at Chemical Bank in New York, Marine Corporation (a multi-bank holding company with $1.2 billion of assets), Baytree Bank, and Bank One Illinois Corporation.

Bunn III replaced the first Board Chair of the Poetry Foundation, Richard P. Kiphart, who has, among numerous other top-echelon big-business gigs, served as chairman of Concord EFS, Inc., a NYSE company in the credit-card processing industry, which merged with First Data Corporation in 2004. He is presently lead director of Lime Energy and chairman of Ranir Corporation.

Among the other Board of Trustees members (every one of them a highly networked elite insider of the ruling 1%), the only recognizable writer (no poets!) is mass-market celebrity and multi-millionaire crime-author/attorney Scott Turow.

One Trustee, Allen E. Bulley III (Dispatches got a bit dizzy trying to keep all the IIs, IIIs, and IVs straight—there seems to be a name shortage among the poetasters of the ruling elite, although it could just be the result of toxic patriarchal anxiety), is co-Chair of Andrews & Bulley LLC, one of the oldest and richest building firms in the nation. Here is some anecdotal color from the firm’s “history” page, which is offered by Mr. Bulley III and partners in a notably lighthearted spirit, even as one can tell it is an episode of serious pride in their corporate history.

In the 1940s, shortly after the United States was drawn into World War II, B&A participated in highly secretive building contracts at the University of Chicago at the behest of the War Department. One of the projects was the construction of a room where an old squash court had been located under the stands of Stagg Field, the only guidance offered to Bulley coming from an anonymous Washington official over a secure telephone line. Workers thought that the project was related to an advanced form of radar or perhaps poison gas, and it was only in the final days of the war, when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, that they began to understand that they had been part of the Manhattan Project, the Army’s top-secret effort to develop the world’s first nuclear weapon. They had built the room that housed a self-sustaining reactor that produced the world’s first atomic pile.

Isn’t that just super nifty, poets? Don’t you feel just tickety-boo knowing that a $200 million poetry institution at the very heart of our field has a direct, casual, totally non-metaphorical tie to the unprecedented horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? That the Poetry Foundation has selected an entrepreneur for their Board of Trustees who openly and cheerfully boasts about his corporation’s venerable role in making the omnicidal immolations of two major Japanese cities possible?

Think about that next time you consider submitting a poem or blog post to PoFo, kids. We understand that you are driven by the desire to accumulate “poetic capital” through such association. We know that the connection will be invaluable in helping you market your Commercial Poetry Products, and establish yourself in your Poetry Career. Left breathless by the recognition from the boardroom, you may forget that there could be a price to pay for being a tool of Capital-in-lyric-clothing. Not to mention being an accessory after the fact to mass homicide. Think about the nature of the beast you have hitched your karmic wagon to. Pause and consider how future poets, looking back on this sordid, ladder-climbing, opportunist time in our poetry might regard you, from the vantage of ethical time.

Occupy the Poetry Foundation.

–Dispatches