Letter from the Director: Autumn 2003

Jules Mann


We always post "poets and poetry in the news" on our website, but for those of you who may have missed it I'd like to acknowledge several notable poets in the past several months who have died: Ken Smith, Kathleen Raine, F T Prince, Colin McKay, and the founder of Two Rivers Press, Peter Hay.

Just as the dog days of summer recede, we still need the fans on high at the Poetry Society as activities for National Poetry Day and our Education Roadshow heat up – other than snatching time off for holidays, this is far from a quiet time for us. You'll discover this as you read elsewhere in Poetry News about this year's festivities, collaborations, outreach and contributions to Britain's poetic heritage.


As a brief respite, the eleven staff members at the Poetry Society gathered together for a concentrated staff retreat at the beginning of July, to review our current status and look ahead to future directions. No bungie-jumping or human pyramids, but lots of mental exercise – we covered just about everything from building budgets to best practice in collaborative work. The co-editors of Poetry Review shared their views on presenting poetry, and announced a new association with Whitechapel Art Gallery and Fred Mann of the Rhodes + Mann gallery in East London, who will recommend and support the art for the future issues, while Poetry Review editors David Herd and Robert Potts will advise on a new reading series to be held at Whitechapel Gallery (launching in late October 2003). For those of you who receive it, you'll have noticed that Poetry Review has added contemporary art, both in colour pages and the "Poet in the Gallery" feature. As the editors explained, not only does art in the pages of the magazine look good aesthetically, but "there is a historical association between art and poetry which is worth exploring, in terms of both similarities and differences in the approaches (philosophical, aesthetic and political) of the various arts".


I'm particularly pleased about a series of collaborations coming up in October (have you noticed yet that despite the "provocation" of having a single day to celebrate poetry, in actual fact National Poetry Day events will be taking place across the country well before and after 9 October?). A few days after the Poetry Society's reading in association with Faber and Penguin on the evening of 9 October, I will be travelling to Manchester where the Poetry Society will present a reading in association with the British Council, Carcanet, Smith Doorstop, Apples & Snakes and Speakeasy. This takes place on the evening of Sunday 12 October to conclude the Manchester Poetry Festival, and features Jane Routh from Smith Doorstop, Chanje Kunda of Speakeasy, Joolz from Apples and Snakes and Sinead Morrissey from Carcanet Press. On Monday I'll be visiting the incredibly poetry-active Manchester Central Library – they're running a promotion in which they've created a set of illustrated posters, featuring the work of contemporary poets living and working in the region, that every library in the region can use as a basis for promoting poetry on and around National Poetry Day.


On Tuesday I'll be heading down to Exeter to join Andrew, Frank and Jean from our Education Department as we prepare for our Education Roadshow Event and Reading on Wednesday the 15th. There won't be enough hours in the day to meet with the numerous poets, publishers and literature promoters in the area, but we'll do our best. It's exciting to work with the Phoenix Exeter, Shearsman Press and Stride Publications to present an evening of poetry with Valerie Bloom and Rupert Loydell. Two days later we'll be down in Calstock presenting a reading with UA Fanthorpe, in association with Peterloo Poets. As much of a whirlwind as it sounds, I'm sure that our time on the road will provide the beginnings of some fruitful relationships in the world of poetry.


I'll conclude with a poetry success story: on Saturday 16 August the Snape Maltings Concert Hall, world famous for music, swapped notes for words at its first ever Poetry Prom presented by the Aldeburgh Poetry Trust. Featuring Scotland's Liz Lochhead, Thomas Lux from America, and Britain's patron saint of poetry Roger McGough, the event sold out – that's 800 seats! Today Snape Maltings, tomorrow Royal Albert Hall? After all, one of our discussion points at the staff Away Day was how to celebrate the Poetry Society's 100th Anniversary in 2009…

Poetry News, Autumn 2003