Academy of American Poets Director Asked to Resign

by Staff

After 12 years as executive director of the Academy of American Poets, William Wadsworth was asked by Henry Reath, president of the organization's board of directors, to resign from his post. Wadsworth will continue to direct the organization's day-to-day operations during the next three months while a new executive director is found.

Charles Flowers, associate director of the Academy, said the decision to ask Wadsworth to resign was influenced by "direct financial fundraising issues and the working relationship between Bill and the board [of directors]." Flowers was quick to add that Wadsworth's departure had nothing to do with the Academy's programming, which includes National Poetry Month, the Poetry Book Club, and the Online Poetry Classroom. "We are very disappointed and saddened by the departure, but we have faith in the programs," Flowers said.

On September 10, before the decision was made public, writer and translator Eliot Weinberger wrote an e-mail to poets, writers, friends, and colleagues stating that Wadsworth had been fired and calling for letters of protest to be sent to the Academy's chairman of the board of directors, Jonathan Galassi. Weinberger also wrote that the Academy's board-"almost entirely wealthy donors with no other connection to the poetry world-has been distressed for a long time by the diversification and expansion of the Academy's activities."

In an e-mailed response to Weinberger's message, Reath wrote: "Bill would have preferred to stay at the Academy for another 2 to 3 years. In my capacity as the leader of the board, I concluded that the recent pace of the Academy's growth entailed a level of financial risk which the board believed was not prudent. In my judgement, new leadership was called for now and we could not accommodate Bill's preferred timetable. Several weeks ago, I asked Bill to resign. Bill and I have had a warm and close working relationship and I know that Bill disagrees with the timing of this decision, but he accepts it. He has agreed to stay on to help with the transition to new leadership."

A press release from the Academy stated that Wadsworth has been invited to join the board of directors when he leaves office. It is not known whether Wadsworth has accepted the invitation.

The search for Wadsworth's successor is being led by Galassi and Reath. Galassi says that any interested applicants for the position of executive director of the Academy of American Poets can contact him at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003.

For continuing coverage of this story, read the January/February 2002 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.