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Intriguing internships: Poetry Foundation a perfect fit for one of W&M’s literati

  • Poetry Foundation intern:
    Poetry Foundation intern:  Claire Gillespie '16 is spending her summer as a web intern for the Poetry Foundation, a Chicago-based independent literary organization committed to discovering the best poetry and making it available to the largest audience possible.  Courtesy photo
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Many William & Mary undergraduate and graduate students take advantage of the summer months to broaden their skills and gain experience in their chosen fields through internships. This story is the fourth in a series exploring some of the intriguing internships that students are engaged in this summer. — Ed.

Almost every member of the William & Mary community has a unique passion. Luckily for students looking to use the summer to pursue what they love, there seems to be a perfect internship to develop just about every possible interest.

Claire Gillespie ’16, an English major with a marketing minor, certainly thinks her summer gig fits that bill. She’s the web intern for the Poetry Foundation, an independent literary organization based in Chicago committed to discovering the best poetry and making it available to the largest audience possible. Gillespie plans to work in the publishing industry as an editor or literary agent, and she can’t imagine a better use of the warmer months to help her reach this goal.

“Because I love poetry, the Poetry Foundation and Poetry Magazine, and because I was able to further my editorial skills and gain new skills in digital work, this internship seemed like a great opportunity,” she said.

Gillespie has surrounded herself with the writing and publication community at William & Mary from the moment she stepped on campus. As a freshman, she was selected to become a writing consultant with the Writing Resources Center in Swem Library, and she will serve as an administrative assistant—the highest student position—during her senior year. In addition, Gillespie is the editor-in-chief of the William and Mary Review, a literary and artistic magazine staffed entirely by students. She also has interned with the Omohundro Institute’s book publication division during her sophomore and junior years.

Given these interests, the Poetry Foundation was a natural fit.

“I’ve known about the Poetry Foundation for a long time,” Gillespie said. “Before this internship, I read the Poetry Foundation website for fun or when looking for information about poets or poems. It’s how I recently discovered several poets I like, such as Nick Flynn and Hannah Sanghee Park.”

The Foundation aims to bring poetry to the world by publishing Poetry Magazine, founded in 1912; maintaining a database of over 12,000 poems and 3,000 poet biographies, a blog, and other resources on its website; and through hosting initiatives at the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute, their library, and various other programs, Gillespie noted.

Within the organization, Gillespie focuses on providing editorial support to the Foundation’s web team.

“My tasks include reading new collections of poetry and helping to decide which poems to put on the website,” she said. “I’ve also done research projects and worked with the Poetry Foundation’s content management system to upload biographies to the website,” some of which she wrote.

Beyond her web editing work, Gillespie has also had the opportunity to participate in many of the Foundation’s events, including ceremonies in which the Foundation awarded the Ruth Lilly Grant to Alice Notley and named Jacqueline Woodsen the Children’s Poet Laureate.

Even the location is a great fit for Gillespie, whose family lives in the Chicago area.

Perhaps the best part of the internship is how much it has required her to apply her academic studies.

“My studies definitely play a big role in this internship in the fact that I use what I have thought about in my poetry classes—including my poetry writing seminar—and apply it to the books that I read and the editorial decisions I make,” Gillespie said. “When I took American Literature 1912-60s last fall, I did a report on ‘little magazines’ and their role in creating modernism and other modernist movements, like imagism. Poetry is probably the main (and only remaining) example of those early little magazines.”

Gillespie has no doubts that this internship will be an essential link in her chain from student to publishing professional.

“This internship has allowed me to further my editorial and writing skills as well as given me new skills in digital work, which I think is integral to working in publishing in the future,” she said.