Letter from the Director: Summer 2007

Things are ‘hotting up’ at the Poetry Society as we move into summer. Three new staff members have been appointed, and I’d like to take a minute to introduce them to you. Korrin Smith has come in as our new Education Manager, and has certainly hit the ground running. You’ll hear more in the coming year about how the Poetry Society is making inroads to taking the fear out of working with poets and poetry in the classroom. David Sharpe is covering for Publications Manager Janet Phillips while she is on maternity leave for the rest of this year; you’re holding his first solo issue of Poetry News in your hands! As you’ll read elsewhere in these pages, our beloved Café Manager, Jessica York, is retiring at the end of June. She has created a terrifically unique Café in the centre of London – an artistic haven and lively evening space for poetry. It was gratifying to find a dynamic young chef and writer, Ely Ahamed, whom we feel is best suited to carry forward the management of the Poetry Café and hiring out of the Poetry Studio; Ely joins us in June and will work together with our wonderful Café staff to continue to make this an inspiring place to visit.

One of the hottest projects we have going at the moment is talent-spotting for the best young poets who can confidently perform their poem on stage in front of a vocal, lively audience. I’m talking about the Rise Slam Championship, and it just keeps getting better. By the time you read this we will have selected the showcase team of a dozen young poets to perform at the “Rise: London United” festival taking place Sunday 15 July at Finsbury Park. But even if you can’t attend the festival, I hope you’ll take a minute to listen to their words on our website.

Translated poetry is also hot – we can say that with confidence after receiving 75 books from 25 languages translated into English in the past two years, submitted as entries for our Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation. Judges Francis Jones and Anne Born have a lot to look forward to, and many thanks due to George Ttoouli and the marketing team for promoting this prize in all the right places. Word is obviously getting out, as with the rest of our competitions, that it is a prestigious honour to win this prize.

You'll read elsewhere in this issue about podcasting poetry – possibly the hottest trend to hit us recently, but it's trendy for a reason. It gives poetry its rightful place as an aural and oral art form, and thanks to the web makes that accessible to anyone. I realise that not everyone is ‘plugged in’ to computers, but one of the side benefits of this work is the fact that we can eventually create a CD of all of our podcasts and audio recordings of poems. We are capturing a slice of our history, in audio alongside our print.

Speaking of poetry in print, it gives me great pleasure to announce that the Trustees of the Poetry Society have made an important decision in light of our approaching Centenary year, and that is to extend the current Poetry Review editor’s time with us to early 2010. Our membership level has reached its highest in five years, the Poetry Review pages are consistently the top visited section of our entire site, and the magazine itself under the accomplished hand of Fiona Sampson has generated heaps of praise. We have successfully pitched for a grant to help us promote the magazine as a literary magazine to wider circles than we have in the past. It will be a great advantage to my colleagues and me to continue what we have started with Fiona to make the magazine work effectively across the organisation, and to have the stability and confidence to plan far into the future to make our centenary in 2009 full of exemplary poetry.

Congratulations to distinguished poets James Fenton for winning this year’s Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, and Sean O’Brien for winning the Northern Rock Writers Award.

It is that time of year for us to make our annual call for nominations for the Council, which must be received by 24 August so that we can circulate the candidates’ details when we post out our autumn mailing to members.

Look for the display ad further along in these pages, and enjoy your summer issue of Poetry News.

Poetry News, summer 2007