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Friday, March 1
The Indiana Daily Student

arts

Heiress gives $100 million to Chicago poetry journal

CHICAGO -- The influential literary magazine Poetry has rejected Ruth Lilly's verse for decades, but it's not about to snub her latest offering -- a multimillion-dollar gift.\nThe ailing, 87-year-old billionaire heiress to the Eli Lilly and Co. pharmaceutical fortune will give the publication, which ran the first major works of Carl Sandburg, T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens, millions of dollars a year under a new estate plan.\n"Ruth Lilly has ensured our existence into perpetuity," Poetry editor Joe Parisi said in announcing the gift Friday at a dinner at the Arts Club of Chicago.\nPoetry, founded in 1912, frequently has had less than $100 in its till. The four-person magazine is housed in the basement of Chicago's Newberry Library.\nThe exact amount of Lilly's gift will fluctuate with the value of Eli Lilly stock. Conservative estimates, however, put the first installment in January at $10 million and the total over 30 years at more than $100 million. The gift comes with no strings attached.\nLilly is the last surviving great-grandchild of Col. Eli Lilly, founder of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co. Her gift is the result of a new estate plan approved by an Indianapolis court and confirmed by lawyers.\nLilly began sending poems to the literary magazine in the early 1970s under her married name, Mrs. Guernsey Van Riper Jr. of Indianapolis.\nParisi thought her poems were good, but did not meet the standards of a monthly known for running the works of poets such as William Butler Yeats, W.H. Auden and Dylan Thomas.\nOver the years, Lilly warmed to Parisi's handwritten rejection notes.\nIn 1986, she established the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which has grown to $100,000. She also has sponsored two $15,000 annual fellowships via the magazine, as well as a professorship in poetry at IU.\nLilly, who is childless, began writing poetry in the mid-1930s, said her attorney, Thomas Ewbank. She "did not take personally" the rejections from Poetry and became a fan and loyal contributor.\nBilly Collins, the U.S. poet laureate who attended the dinner where the gift was discussed said, "It is probably an unprecedented gift to a literary publication."\nEwbank would only say, "There are people who can snatch defeat from the jaw of victory. But assuming they have a good investment committee and controls, all they need be is prudent and conservative and this will provide them the base they need."\nDeborah Cummins, president of the board of trustees of the Modern Poetry Association which oversees the magazine as its publisher, said the group will seek to increase its various educational programs; devise seminars for teachers nationwide to teach poetry; expand grants and fellowships; and increase the publication of books via its Poetry Press. It also wants to buy a larger headquarters in Chicago.\n"The magazine, as our crown jewel, will obviously remain," she said. "We aim to keep it the premier journal devoted to poetry in the country"

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