Letter from the Director: Winter 2006/7

Welcome to an exciting upcoming year for the Poetry Society, and the conclusion of an eventful 2006! We're still infused with momentum from National Poetry Day, the terrific showing this year for the Foyle Young Poets Award, an equally large number of entries for the National Poetry Competition, and the opportunity to meet some of you whilst touring with our Poetry International Web Project.

The biggest news for our worldwide members is that we've completely redesigned our website – same URL, but you can navigate much more easily and we've responded to the comments over the years that the Poetry Society really should have poetry visible on our website. We launched the new site in early December with a poem from our poet laureate Andrew Motion, and the featured poem will rotate every month. The site is quite large, so do explore beyond the home page, which now features poetry in the news, Poetry Society events, launches and announcements and Poetry Landmarks of Britain. This year the Poetry Landmarks surpassed the 700 entry mark, but I think it can go much higher because I keep discovering regular events, promoters, venues and publishers who don't show up on this map. Registration is free – instructions are in that section of our site.

For those of you who were following Jackie Kay's wonderful blogs on our National Poetry Day site, you'll be very pleased to hear that she is carrying on, and the Guardian Online has offered to host them as part of their arts and entertainment blogs: visit blogs.guardian.co.uk/arts for more, and if you missed her musings on 'identity', they'll still be archived on our website.

Requests for poets on National Poetry Day begin as early as a year in advance, but many are last minute bookings. This year, we had over 100 requests from schools nationwide in September/October alone. In addition to these one-off school visits, this year we have been focusing on more longer-term residencies, including a project funded by the Wellcome Trust involving Poetry and Emotional Health, which will bring seven poets to seven secondary schools nationwide in early 2007.

In other news, our November issue of Poetry International Web UK launched with guest editor Nikki Scintilli on prose poetry in the UK. Visit the site to hear audio recordings of a discussion about contemporary world poetry with India domain editor Arundhathi Subramaniam and UK editors Anne Born and Andrew Bailey; Poetry Society members may request an audio CD if you do not have access to the web.

Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award judges Paul Farley and Kate Clanchy noted how strong this year's top fifteen winners are, and in fact how strong the entire field was including the 85 commended poets. This year's entries reached over 11,000, sent in by over 6,000 young poets. We'll publish a free anthology of their work in February; let us know if you'd like a copy (020 7 420 9892) – feel free to request multiple copies to distribute in your community, to encourage young writers to enter in 2007.

The National Poetry Competition deadline has passed and I'm pleased to announce that we received over 9,900 entries! It's going to be a tough job for judges Alice Oswald, Lee Harwood and John Burnside. We'd like to thank many of our Poetry Landmarks for their support in carrying competition entry forms, and Stanza members for helping to distribute in their area.

Looking ahead to early 2007: our 16 January Annual Lecture features Dame Gillian Beer at St Giles-in-the-Fields, 'The Poets' Church'; we've linked up with the stAnza Festival to present an event in London entitled 'Homeland and Exile' on 6 February, followed by an event at the festival in St Andrews on 16 March (see back page). Our new website features a lively calendar of events and is the best place to check for the most current information.

Following the 2006 AGM elections in November I'd like to welcome our new Chair, Anne-Marie Fyfe – many of you know Anne-Marie as a poet, and she's also responsible for an excellent reading series at the Troubadour Café in London (see page 6). I'd like to thank those Trustees retiring – Henry Fajemirokun, Jane Davies, Adrian Brown and outgoing Chair Ruth Padel – and welcome four new Trustees to the Board: Rachel Alexander, Moniza Alvi, Barry Kernon and Maggie Sullivan.

 

Poetry News, winter 2006/7