Racial Equity Work Plan

Poetry is vital to language and living. Copper Canyon Press publishes extraordinary poetry from around the world to engage the imaginations and intellects of readers. It is imperative that we address inequities that keep Black and Indigenous community members and other people of color [BIPOC] from engaging fully at all levels of Copper Canyon Press [CCP] whether as authors, readers, donors, board, or staff members.

CCP staff and leadership are historically and currently majority white, a makeup that does not reflect the diversity of our authors or readership. We take seriously our responsibility—as publishers of poetry books by Black, Indigenous, Asian American, Arab American, Latinx, immigrant, undocumented, multilingual, and multinational writers and translators of the (non-white) global majority, as well as poetry books by white poets in the U.S. and abroad—to be informed about, and actively resist, systemic racism. With the actions in this plan, we seek to build a foundation from which we can do the proactive, intentional, and overdue work of dismantling structural racism in our own house and within our field. We are grateful for BIPOC poets, organizers, and publishing colleagues who have led this work for many decades, and who continue to lead the charge. 

Each of the efforts listed here is part of an urgent and ongoing process toward culture change, and greater equity, inclusion, and access for our brilliant poetry community. We want to share some of our current actions, and our plans to continue this work into the future.

Our commitment to racial equity and justice includes:

  • An organization-wide assessment of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility at the Press. Next steps: CCP has hired poet and independent consultant Ama Codjoe to solicit feedback from authors, staff, and other stakeholders, resulting in a recommended action plan. This assessment will conclude by the end of 2021, and CCP will share a summary report on our website. 
  • An external audit of organizational practices and processes at CCP. With the information provided by the audit, we intend to identify and remove inequitable barriers to employment, publication, participation, and advancement at the Press. The audit will examine CCP’s:
    • HR policies including hiring practices, job descriptions, and employment manual
    • Board governance and procedural documents
    • Book list and editorial policies

Next steps: An external auditor hired by CCP will complete this audit by the end of 2021 as part of our organization-wide assessment, and CCP will share a summary report on our website.

  • Anti-bias and inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility training and education for all staff and board members. As publishing professionals and patrons of the literary arts, we hold powerful gatekeeping positions. Our organization can only be as antiracist and liberatory as those who run it. Next steps: 
    • In January 2021, the Copper Canyon Press Board of Directors and all permanent staff attended antiracism trainings facilitated by poet and independent consultant Ama Codjoe, through which we gained shared vocabulary, greater understanding of personal accountability and implicit bias, and guidance on applying antiracism frameworks to CCP’s mission and operations. 
    • CCP offers paid work time and financial support for staff and leadership to attend outside learning opportunities and events that build knowledge and community on issues of inclusion, equity, diversity, and access. To date, staff have attended workshops on a variety of intersectional topics including disability and racism; antiracist recruitment; and how to advocate for meaningful, action-supported anti-racist practices as a marketing professional, with the ultimate goal of centering antiracist values and practices in our work plans and organizational culture. 
    • As of October 2020, CCP staff and interns participate in monthly peer-led racial equity dialogues, in an internal self-education effort focused on topics of race and equity in poetry, publishing, and beyond.
  • Active board recruitment and trustee onboarding. Recognizing the resources and opportunities that BIPOC leaders bring to CCP, we are committed to actively recruiting more BIPOC board members. Next steps: A new board committee has been formed as of January 2021 to accomplish this goal. We have revised our board position descriptions and member onboarding materials to reflect responsibilities related to inclusion and equity at CCP (i.e. participating in special meetings, training, recruitment efforts, and other board-level change work). 
  • Dedicated funding and program changes to make the Copper Canyon Press internship program more equitable. Many literary professionals begin their careers as interns. The CCP internship program is an immersive experiential learning experience, and offers interns a deepened relationship to poetry, and a professionally-competitive understanding of literary and nonprofit landscapes. We are taking steps to remove systemic barriers to BIPOC participation in the CCP internship program accordingly. Past and present intern cohorts have provided invaluable feedback and activism around intern compensation and other opportunities for greater equity and inclusion. Next steps: 
    • Copper Canyon Press internships have historically been unpaid—an unfair advantage for prospective interns with access to wealth, and a barrier for those who cannot afford to work for free. As of January 2021, interns at the Press are offered compensation in the form of a volunteer stipend of $500/month, which does not provide a living wage, but is one step towards increasing equitable access to the program. 
    • Further commitments include a greater focus on actively recruiting BIPOC interns, and exploring new mentorship and networking opportunities for interns at CCP and in the field of publishing. 
  • Dedicated funding to launch a new Publishing Fellowship program for BIPOC—and others historically excluded from publishing—who are exploring careers as editors. As we dismantle barriers, we also wish to build new inroads and connections. The Publishing Fellowship program will welcome BIPOC emerging editors to bring skills and expertise to the CCP editorial program while receiving professional development and mentorship from CCP staff. Next steps: Planning details for this program will be informed by our organization-wide assessment, with a goal to bring on the first Fellow(s) in 2022. 
  • Review and revision of our house style guide toward current and liberatory uses of language. Next steps: As of fall 2020, CCP completed an initial revision of our house style guide. The revision includes a new section guiding the language CCP uses in printed materials to refer to marginalized and racialized identities and groups of people. We will revisit this portion of our style guide annually or as-needed. 
  • Revision of our pressmark. In recent years Copper Canyon Press staff and board have engaged in complex and honest conversations about the ways that our pressmark and logo impact readers and poets. For decades, Copper Canyon Press books and materials have carried a Chinese character that means “poetry,” representing our long dedication to the art of translation, and the global scope of our list and authors. We are grateful to community members who have provided feedback on the negative impact of the CCP pressmark in context of the history of orientalism, racist exclusion of Asian and Asian American voices from contemporary literature, and appropriation of Asian cultures and symbols in western and white literary institutions. Next steps: We will revise the CCP pressmark and logo toward a more culturally-sensitive, inclusive, and accurate representation of the Press’s vision. We will complete this by 2023. 
  • Development of a new racial equity decision-making framework to guide all major efforts at CCP. Inspired by RaceForward’s “Equity Prime,” this will consist of a set of questions—adapted specifically for a nonprofit arts organization—that place equity and inclusion at the forefront of organizational decision-making. Next steps: Such a framework will be developed and incorporated into staff and board processes by the end of 2021. 

The actions listed above are directly related to our day-to-day operations as a book publisher, employer, and nonprofit literary arts organization. As individual stakeholders, and as an institution, we also hold responsibility within the larger context of country and culture. We commit to:

  • Direct and overt support of the movement for Black lives. As long as the state-sanctioned killing of Black people continues, the Black poets, readers, and colleagues among us do not have equal access to basic levels of safety and wellbeing. Next steps: CCP adapted our Read Generously donor program to raise funds for Black Lives Matter between June 15 and September 1, 2020, resulting in a contribution of nearly $6k to BLM. Staff and board members will work to determine how CCP can provide longer-term support to the movement.
  • An ongoing intersectional approach to all equity and inclusion work, acknowledging that other forms of oppression—including sexism, transphobia, homophobia, ageism, ableism, xenophobia, and classism—must be addressed at all levels of the organization (in the books we publish, among staff and board, and in CCP’s organizational policies) to achieve a truly antiracist and liberatory vision for change. 

We will update this plan annually—or more frequently as needed—with reports on our progress. If you have comments or questions, please send your message to poetry@coppercanyonpress.org

Thank you.


Copper Canyon Press Staff & Board