Letter from the Director

As we round the corner towards 2009 we’ve been working behind the scenes to find ways for our members, through the local Stanza groups, to help us deliver a year of poetry for our centenary. I’m delighted to announce that the National Trust is very pleased to forge links with the Poetry Society in this celebration, and plans are underway now for our Stanza groups to get involved with their local NT property to hold readings and workshops, curate exhibitions of poetry written at or about the local property or area, enhance other activities with poetry, and perhaps even bring in a local poet in residence for the year. If this sounds like something you’d like to be involved in, please contact your nearest Stanza group, or our Membership Manager, Paul McGrane (0207 420 9881, membershipATpoetrysociety.org.uk).

Our Stanza groups met again this year during the Ledbury Poetry Festival, to share ideas and information about each other’s activity. Thirteen out of our sixty-one Stanzas made the journey to this meeting. Anne Stewart, Poetry Society Stanza Kent North West, suggested that Stanzas should encourage reciprocal visits, noting that “in the spirit of the Stanza project – connection, inter-connection – it’s a really good way of finding out for real what other groups are doing and a good opportunity for increasing attendance at events, certainly very useful for the smaller groups”. 
Join the profiling project on our website – Paul McGrane is building a page of photos and short blurbs about members of the Poetry Society. Feel free to contact Paul and he’ll send a questionnaire for you to fill out. He’ll also ask you for a .jpg photo. Visit the page and meet our members: www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/membership.

Early this year we conducted a survey of our Stanza members to explore ways to further develop our benefits to all Poetry Society members. One of these ideas is cross-discounts with other poetry organizations, and even moving beyond poetry organizations where relevant. Something that has suddenly taken off this year is the number of approaches we either initiate or that come to us from event organizers or even TV channels who offer a draw of free tickets to our members. Due to the often last-minute nature of this, the only way we can do it is through emails, so if you’re not on our email list be sure you sign up. We hope to attract more of these approaches, especially for events outside London, so if there’s anything happening near you that you think Poetry Society members would enjoy, let Paul McGrane know and we’ll see what we can do!

Another idea our Stanza members liked was a ‘premium’ membership package. Out of this came our new category of Gold Members, introduced in April this year, which is really taking off – I can’t emphasise enough how much we appreciate the support that this gives us in running and further developing our membership scheme as well as the work of the organization around the study, use and enjoyment of poetry. We are still waiting for our first Patron Member to sign up at £1,000 and have every reason to think that this will appeal to a number of people for our centenary year in particular. It would make a wonderful corporate package or a memorable gift.

Thanks to those who took part in our Membership Awareness Survey 2008. It was incredibly useful to us to hear your comments, and to compile a picture of the areas of our work that a high percentage of you know about and those areas of our work that seem to be less visible. I wanted to highlight two resources in particular that seemed to have low visibility but might be of great use to you. Our New Poetry Titles web page gives a month by month forecast of new poetry collections coming out in the UK – our Year of Reading service for poetry lovers. We perceived a gap in this sort of information as far back as 2001, and decided to collate it from the various publisher catalogues we receive regularly, and present it to you via the website. The number of publishers has increased five-fold, and now includes many of the small publishers around the UK. It lives in our ‘Info and Links’ section and can be found directly here: www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/info/newpoetry08/.

Secondly, to enhance the printed issues of Poetry Review, we now feature a quarterly interview with the editor, Fiona Sampson. The most recent one can be found on our home page and if you missed any you can always find them on the Poetry Review pages of our site.

We bid farewell to our Education Assistant Ben Knight, who is moving away from London after two years with us; we shall miss his charming personality and enthusiasm for poetry. As a Foyle Young Poets of the Year alumni who has an excellent administrative background, our new Education Assistant Holly Hopkins will bring a unique perspective to our Education department and we are delighted she has joined us. 

Jules Mann, Director

Poetry News, Autumn 2008