John Hunting is not your average philanthropist. He is the founder of the Dyer Ives Poetry Contest, an accomplishment he considers to be one of the most important in his life--having found a way to give poets the recognition that they deserve.
Mr. Hunting has always enjoyed poetry. As a child he loved to listen to the wondrous words of Eugene Field, T.S. Elliott, Robert Frost, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Although he doesn’t read much poetry anymore, Mr. Hunting still holds a special place in his heart for enchanting rhymes and rhythms. His struggle to give poets the recognition that they deserve all started in Ohio, where he attended Dennison University and was involved in an arts magazine. It was at this time that he realized how difficult it was to be a poet. He had written ‘light verse’ on occasion to be read at birthday parties or to fulfill a Christmas tradition his family still deeply treasures, yet he never delved any deeper into poetry than that.
He appreciated poetry so much that when his friend James Allen, who happened to be a poet, proposed the idea of starting a poetry contest, Mr. Hunting could not refuse. Mr. Hunting supplied the money for the contest and managed to secure a national poet to be the judge, then sat back to watch their vision come to life. The Dyer Ives Poetry Contest was established in the mid 1970s and is the longest running poetry contest in the United States at forty years. Although Mr. Hunting doesn’t get to see the entries before the winner is announced, he is always very impressed with the caliber of writing submitted to the contest.
Mr. Hunting dislikes the fact that poets are seldom acknowledged and encourages young writers to “stick to it” don’t be put off by rejection, he warns because poetry is a crapshoot. One year the judge may not like your choice of poems submitted but maybe the next year you’ll win the contest with those rejected poems. You never know.
He closed our interview with this story: “One day I was walking around New York City’s Upper East Side and I saw a health store on Broadway St. In the window there was sign that said ‘poetry lessons; winner of the Dyer Ives Poetry Contest.’ and I was so proud that our poetry contest meant enough to put on a sign in a window for everyone to see.”
Yes, John Hunting is not your average philanthropist. Interviewing him was a pleasure and an experience that I will treasure for as long as I write poetry, which will be forever.