The Poetry Project

Accountability and Safer Spaces

The Poetry Project has been presenting live readings, performance, and other work out of St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery since 1966. We are committed to continuously and critically engaging the history and future of our presence in this particular space, and as part of that, we would like to acknowledge that this venue is built upon unceded indigenous lands, specifically the territory of the Lenape people. We recognize the continual displacement and violence perpetrated against Indigenous  people and people of color by the US and are aware that these kinds of acknowledgments can be misused as stand-ins for actual decolonization work, which is something for us to bear in mind as we go forward in our ongoing commitment to accountability, reparation, and equity.

We pride ourselves at The Poetry Project on being a space and community that expands access to poems, poets, education, and opportunities for sharing one’s work. Individuals who read at The Project support and show up for other members of the community in a number of different ways. We upend traditional notions of teacher, student, critic, and scholar in our workshops and publications. We set up the chairs collectively at the readings, and we put them back after the event the same way.

We endeavor to make The Poetry Project a counter-hierarchal, radically open place, where we can complicate and unsettle the center and the margin, amplify voices that have been historically silenced, and explore other possible ways of being together. We recognize that within this, we bear responsibility to express and uphold certain values that leave no space for behavior that is harmful, disrespectful, or further inflicts injustice, discrimination, or violence against our community.

We affirm our commitment to these values and also would like to express our recognition that their enactment requires ongoing reflection and self-criticality. In a community such as ours, it is not enough to statically repeat values from one moment to another. We must dedicate time, attention, and resources to continually making safer space, and in an always more inclusive manner. We use the terms “safer” and “more inclusive” to indicate that these conditions are not perfectible, fixed, or finite; they are qualities of community which we are continuously working toward.

We will say this: racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, and other forms of violence do not have a place at The Poetry Project. And we will say this too: we keep ourselves receptive and accountable to critique. This community is made by all of us. We invite your continued participation in envisioning what that can be.