Director's Letter: Spring 2007

Each year new Trustees of the Poetry Society enjoy a personalised induction process, and this year it was clear that many were surprised at how much the Poetry Society did. I thought I'd use my corner in Poetry News this quarter to give you a bird's-eye view of what happens in our offices during the months of December, January and February.

By December our Membership Manager Paul McGrane has worked through the piles of new and renewed memberships that come through during the month of October – thanks to National Poetry Day and the deadline for the Poetry Society's National Poetry Competition. In January he co-ordinated and hosted a meeting of our regional Stanza members here at the Society.

Joelle Taylor fills the offices with energy and enthusiasm as she gears up to run this year's Londonwide Slam Championship – flyers and posters have to be mailed out, youth clubs contacted, training sessions with teachers and youth leaders organised, and by late January London's young performance poet hopefuls start registering to appear on stage.

Café Manager Jessica York prepares for the year ahead by setting out the calendar of bookings for events and workshops in the Cafe and the first floor Poetry Studio. In addition to its Café function, the Poetry Café serves as a real community space for the diverse poetry communities in Britain (yes, people come from great distances to hold events here). In fact, the Café is booked out six nights a week, and the Studio is busy with regular workshop groups as well as one-off meetings and conferences.

Poetry Review Editor Fiona Sampson can be found behind piles of books, reading submissions and compiling work for the Spring, Summer and Autumn issues of the Review.

It's a wonder that Publications Manager Janet Phillips ever has time to take time off for Christmas. Since December she has been designing the Londonwide Slam poster, the Foyle Young Poets of the Year poster and anthology, the National Poetry Competition 2007 leaflet, and of course the next issues of Poetry News and Poetry Review.

Education Officer Angel Dahouk has been arranging poets in ten schools for a project with Lapidus and the Samaritans (funded by Wellcome Trust), meeting with various people in the education sector to discuss poetry initiatives, sending letters and posters to school members and preparing project reports to be posted up on our website soon.

Education Coordinator Andrew Bailey, who has been commuting for over a year now from Chichester, leaves the Poetry Society at the end of February. His last bit of time here has been spent training us on the new website and making arrangements for the Foyle Young Poets Award – proofing poems for the anthology, organising judges for 2007, and finalising the logistics for the 2006 winners to spend a week at the Arvon Hurst Centre.

George Ttoouli has taken over many of Andrew's projects, carrying on with poets in Foyle Award prizes for younger winners in Dorset, Newcastle, Warwickshire, Todmorden, and East London; managing the Poetry International Web UK pages (Andrew's last issue went up in February, so look for George's in May); and continuing to update the web pages from our Poetry Laboratories with poets and scientists and from Britain's regional poet laureates.

Marie Lally keeps up our financial structure, currently sharing her time between spreadsheets of our year-end projections and our proposed budget for 2007/08.

Press and Marketing Team Lisa Roberts and Helen Laing were able to attract many new audience members to the Annual Lecture in January and our Homelands and Exile event in February; they have been planning the marketing strategy for the remainder of the year's projects and events. January is judging time for the National Poetry Competition, and following that they contact press and arrange for interviews. It takes a huge amount of preparation to launch the 2007 Competition soon afterwards in April – over the next seven months they'll distribute over 80,000 entry forms! During February they've also been busy with Joelle on the slam project, George on the Foyle Young Poets Award and Fiona on the Poetry Review marketing for this quarter.

Our new Administrative Assistant, Ben Knight, just started in February and already seems to be doing a little bit of everything.

And so we prepare for the coming year. In the midst of all of this, poetry is ever-present, some of it from within our own ranks – we eagerly await Fiona Sampson's new collection, Common Prayer, coming out from Carcanet this June.

I'd like to close by thanking two colleagues, Andrew Bailey and Frank Geary, each of whom worked at the Poetry Society for nearly five years and have now moved on. It was a pleasure to have Andrew's computer and poetry expertise (what a combination!), and to benefit from Frank's ability to meet and befriend most of the education sector in the UK. The Poetry Society has plenty to build on thanks to these two fine people, and we miss them but wish them every success.

Poetry News Spring 2007