The Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry

30th Year Annual Report

2001-2002, 51 pages. Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, P.O. Box 10169, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504, 505-988-3251.

The Reader rarely reviews foundations' annual reports, but makes exceptions on occasion — in this case for the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry's reaching its 30th year of grantmaking. The handsome 2001 Witter Bynner commemorative report is engaging to read, and presents grant descriptions alongside poems by supported writers, presses, students, and presenting programs.

Founded by poet Harold Witter Bynner, the foundation's grant programs include both national initiatives and programming based in the Southwest. (The Foundation is based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.) Small numbers of grants are awarded in each program area, but the overall scope is impressive — from an annual $30,000 fellowship in poetry at the Library of Congress (selected by the Poet Laureate), to public radio programs featuring poets from various regions, to residencies and other resources for translators. Several supported programs bring Shakespeare's work to students and adult audiences while others support projects by and in Native American communities. The Foundation's translation awards for specific book projects strive to bring to English language readers literature that is rarely available to them, such as Song of the Drum, a book of oral shaman poetry from the Buryat Mongolian language.

In fiscal year 2000-01, the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, Inc. had assets of $5.2 million. While the scale of its grantmaking is modest, its work is highly significant in its chosen fields where private foundation support is relatively rare. Nationally, for example, funding for translation is particularly scarce — from both public and private sources and in spite of galloping “globalization.”

reviewed by Frances Phillips, The Walter and Elise Haas Fund