Pittsburgh’s Poetry Forum to Close

by Staff

Another literary casualty of the ailing market, the International Poetry Forum (IPF) in Pittsburgh will cease its poetry programming after this season, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Poet Sam Hazo, who founded the IPF in 1966 and serves as director, announced the shuttering of the organization at a reading last Wednesday.

The IPF lost a significant portion of its funds when the value of its stock portfolio dropped by 25 percent as a result of the market collapse. Only able to cover about a quarter of its annual budget with revenue from event ticket sales, the majority of the organization’s funding has come from nonprofits and private donors, who have also suffered financially and are unable to provide the support necessary to keep the IPF running.

“Last year at this time, I believed we had at least two more years of life if we didn't raise a penny, then the market took a hit,” Hazo said at Wednesday’s reading. “There's no foundation money to be had.”

Over the years, the organization sponsored nearly six hundred poetry readings and performances in Pittsburgh, as well as in northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. The IPF also operated the program Poets-In-Person, which sent poets into Pennsylvania schools and partnered with University of Pittsburgh Press to publish poetry collections through the Pitt Poetry Series.

The Forum will continue to upgrade its Web site, a project that has already been funded, to include audio archives of its public readings. Among the hundreds of poets who once participated in the readings are Richard Wilbur, Maxine Kumin, Seamus Heaney, Anne Sexton, and Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Ron Padgett and Adam Zagajewski will close the final season this spring.

“It's the end of a era,” said poet Jim Daniels, a professor of creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University. “I had never seen anything like the Poetry Forum anywhere until I came to Pittsburgh.”