Belladonna Founder Rachel Levitsky on Poetry, Politics, and What Comes Next

EJB: What do you see as Belladonna’s biggest achievement?

RL: I am proud of publishing people whose first books came out when they were in their 40s and 50s.

Belladonna is a beautiful community. Sure, there is sometimes static, but we’ve somehow managed to survive for 20 years without becoming institutionalized. I’m also proud that I was able to step back and decentralize myself. People now do things for Belladonna that I know nothing about.

 EJB: Any disappointments or regrets?

RL: It’s more of a frustration, but I hate that people shy away from fundraising. Without a paid staff, we need everyone to participate. It’s an ongoing process, but we are basically a $200,000 organization that functions on about $50,000. We need benefactors.

EJB: What’s on your current to-do list?

RL: Aside from teaching and writing? I go to Jewish Voice for Peace meetings and want to do more Israel/Palestine work.

The legacy of poet Akilah Oliver (1961-2011) is also on my mind—and I want to do a big project on fun, but I’m not yet sure what form it will take.