We are a a non-profit organization founded in 1971 by University of Maine English professor Carroll F. Terrell under the name The National Poetry Foundation. The original mission of the founder was to encourage scholarship on and gather archival material and mementos related to the modernist American poet Ezra Pound. Terrell’s goal was to establish Pound as the defining poet of modernism, his vehicle was the journal Paideuma, a magazine devoted to Pound studies, his end the publication of his landmark A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound.
Almost immediately this mission both expanded and exploded. A focus on Pound shed light on the many neglected modernist poets that had been in dialogue with him, such as Louis Zukofsky, Mina Loy, Basil Bunting, H. D., and George Oppen, as well as the esoteric aspects of more canonical figures such as Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, W. B. Yeats, and T. S. Eliot. To accommodate these lines of inquiry the NPF, with help from its second director Burton Hatlen, expanded its publication profile and activities to include a second journal, scholarly books, books of poetry, and poetics conferences. What began as a project to reexamine one very controversial yet consequential poet evolved into the examination of a whole complex of poets and poetry involved in the formal and aesthetic questions of modernism.
Our mission continues to evolve. Paideuma is still our signature journal, though its focus is now on both modern and contemporary poetry and poetics. We continue to host conferences and symposia and to occasionally publish collections of both poetry and scholarship in keeping with our catalog. In addition, we co-sponsor the English Department’s New Writing Series and serve as custodian of its archive.
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For a more extensive history of the Center see Laura Cowan’schapter “‘At the very center of the poetry map’: The National Poetry Foundation,” in Becoming Modern: A History of the University of Maine, 1965 – 2015, University of Maine Press.
If you are interested in exploring our archives, you can visit the Special Collections department of University of Maine’s Fogler Library through this finding aid (NPF Archives from 1957-1994).