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Press Release: Poets House Announces Temporary Suspension of Operations

Poets House, the nation’s premier poetry library, has announced that it will suspend operations indefinitely, effective immediately, due to budgetary issues caused by the Coronavirus. It is hoped that the library may be able reopen late in 2021 once the pandemic is under control and Poets House has reconfigured its operations.

Additionally, Lee Briccetti, the executive director of Poets House for over 30 years, announced her retirement in 2021. Briccetti and long serving Managing Director Jane Preston had already begun succession planning.  They will stay on temporarily to ensure a seamless transition and manage strategic alliances.

Robert Kissane, chairman of the Poets House Board of Directors said, “This is an unprecedented moment in Poets House history and, indeed, the world. The Board took these measures in order to withstand what we all are facing and ensure that the organization and its collections survive.”

Poets House was successful, until now, in keeping its entire staff at full salaries and benefits throughout these difficult months. Dwindling emergency funds and a difficult fundraising environment necessitated these actions.  The organization will use its limited reserves to pay staff severance and vacation pay.

Lee Briccetti said, “We will use this time to reflect on the extraordinary history of Poets House and reevaluate the organization’s future trajectory, especially in light of the new times in which we now live. Poets House has been a central part of my life for the past 30 years. There is nothing quite like it in the literary realm, and we must do all we can to ensure that it remains alive and vibrant.”

Poets House has a world-class poetry library of 70,000 books that is free and open to the public at its beautiful space in Battery Park City.  It has presented live programs, workshops, and exhibits that have long embraced inclusivity and diversity.  When it reopens, its emphasis is expected to be on core library services—a goal articulated in its 2019 long-range plan and interrupted by COVID—its most essential asset.  Poets House had already begun to digitize its collection of chapbooks, an extraordinary archive of small, handmade and limited run books.  These frequently represent the first appearance in print of some of the country’s greatest poets.

Poets House has been a national literary center and creative space that invites poets and the public to step into the living tradition of poetry. Poets House documents the wealth and diversity of poetry and stimulates public dialogue on issues related to poetry in culture. Founded in 1985 by two-time Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz and legendary arts administrator Elizabeth Kray, Poets House is a place of welcome and social imagination that invites people of all ages to write and learn about poetry’s power.

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