Chris Meade answers some frequently-asked questions


So how do we get involved?

Do you want your work place to be a Poetry Place, becoming part of a national database of schools, bookshops, libraries, festivals, literature centres and other venues all of which, in all kinds of very different ways, help poetry thrive? Might your company sponsor a poet in residence? Does your hotel run poetry weeks? Is your health centre keen to display poems in the waiting room? During the next two years we'll be producing resources and training events to help Poetry Places develop their work, as well as seeking suitable sites for innovative projects and placements. Each Poetry Place will need to subscribe to the Society, send staff on a training day, display information we send out on poetry activities and keep the Society in touch with what it's doing for poetry. We'll keep all our members informed of details of this scheme through Poetry News, but if you want to tell us more about somewhere you think should be a Poetry Place, please write to Christina Patterson at [email protected] or at The Poetry Society, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BU.

So the Poetry Society is loaded with dosh now?

Not really. Our Arts Council grant has been on standstill for years. The A4E funding can only be used for specific purposes and we still need to raise at least £50,000 to release all the money and complete the project. We need all the help we can to use this funding as an opportunity to generate new income and sponsorship to secure our future development. Poetry Places isn't a short term pot of grant aid; it's an evolving project to build a lasting, national framework of support for poetry. It will transform the way the Society operates, enabling us to provide new services and opportunities to alll those with an interest in poetry.

Why do you use words like 'framework' and 'enabling' all the time?

Because I spend so much time writing application forms. Luckily, it pays off sometimes.

I'm a poet - how do I apply for work on the scheme?

You fill in a form, naturally. This will become part of the Poetry Society's new Poetry Database which we are developing with support from the Authors' Licensing & Collecting Society (ALCS). The ALCS collects royalties on behalf of writers and the database will help them to track down poets to whom money is owing. The Poetry Society will use the database to provide information and advice to Poetry Places. We will also pass on poets' details to the National Association of Writers In Education (NAWE) to form part of a writers database, accessible from our website and aimed at schools and others seeking to employ poets and writers. Poetry Places appointments will be advertised in Poetry News - so make sure you're a member of the Poetry Society. We will ask applicants to write to us about projects they wish to apply for. The A4E Steering Group will use the information on the Poetry Database to help them make the selections, interviewing a short list of candidates for major residencies.

Do I have to be published to get work as a poet?

The Poetry Society promotes quality without snobbery. Our aim is to help all kinds of poetry to develop on its own terms. We are not interested in flattering anyone's vanity nor in throwing anyone out of poetryland.

However, given the large number of highly regarded and experienced poets in Britain today who find it extremely difficult to earn anything like a living through their poetry, we anticipate a high standard of applicants for work on offer.

We expect to appoint poets with a track record of paid employment giving readings and workshops, with at least one collection published by a recognised publisher which sells the majority of its books through shops.

Ah well, it all sounds very exciting. How do I keep in touch with what's going on?

Read Poetry News, become a member of the Poetry Society, call in at the Poetry Place in Covent Garden if you can, and watch this space.