The Poetry Foundation was established in 2003 after receiving a gift of more than 100 million dollars from philanthropist Ruth Lilly, heir to the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical fortune. The gift from Lilly allowed the Poetry Foundation to expand and enhance the presence of poetry in the United States and established an endowment that will fund Poetry magazine in perpetuity.

The Foundation builds on the work of the Modern Poetry Association, which was founded in 1941 to support the publication of Poetry magazine. An independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture, the Foundation exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry. 

The web site of the Poetry Foundation continues to generate a range of resources for readers and students of poetry and poetics. The site is a robust tool for teaching and learning, providing a range of both primary and secondary materials.