Letter from the Director: Autumn 2004

Jules Mann


The culmination of many months' work is almost upon us, and I hope that you hear about and have an opportunity to engage in National Poetry Day – indeed, Poetry Week – during the first week of October this year. By joining forces with regional farmers markets and farm shops, we hope to inject more awareness of poetry into everyday working lives. If you don't have access to the internet and would like to know what is happening in your area on or around 7 October, please call our office at 020 7420 9880 and ask a staff member to look up your region on our Poetry Landmarks site. This enhanced service is only available to members of the Poetry Society, so do please identify yourself as such.


You may of course read more about this year's activities in our cover article, and more on page 7 about a recipe poem book we are producing this year – it will be available for £7.99 and for every sale £1 is donated to National Poetry Day, which helps us promote the enjoyment of poetry. Need I say "perfect gift item"?

One of the other "offshoots" of collecting poems for this book is that we're compiling a 'Food Poem Bookshelf' – here you can browse for poems about food, and we'll give you the details of the book so you can explore each poet's work further. This is available on our website or we can send you a copy by post. Several of our partners for this year's National Poetry Day will be posting the Food Poem Bookshelf on their websites: The Reading Agency (for libraries), and the Book Trust's "Children's Book Week" site will feature a selection of Children's Food Poems. A third partner will take this bookshelf a step further – you can not only browse, but make a purchase on a newly launched online bookshop, if you prefer virtual transactions to scouring the shelves of your nearest high street bookshop (www.poetrybookshoponline.com).While you're there, do explore, because it features more than 30,000 poetry titles – classic to contemporary, academic texts to children's books, Beowulf to Birthday Letters. The site is run by the Poetry Book Society so you get the benefit of the PBS's book-selling expertise, but you don't have to be a member to buy books.


Late August at the Poetry Society always means one week's closure for the Poetry Café for refurbishment, but this year the entire building has been ensconced in scaffolding as we do some necessary roof and exterior repairs. At times it has felt as if we were sitting in a dentist's chair rather than an office (and rather unnerving to have builders climbing in and out of windows at will), but it should all be worth it by the time the rains really set in and our leaky roof and crumbling windowsills are no longer a concern.

The Poetry Society has been out and about, going mobile at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July and heading towards Bristol Poetry Festival and Cardiff in October. Please do rsvp if you can make either of the invites to members in those areas (see page 5 of this issue of Poetry News).


Events planning is afoot for 2005, and I can now announce that we will be featuring a Poetry in Translation Series to coincide with another year of the Popescu Prize for European Poetry in Translation. This new reading series has been developed in direct response to the Members' Survey and your overwhelming response about wanting to see more poetry in translation. We're holding monthly readings/ discussions from January to June, beginning with an inaugural lecture by David Constantine on 27 January. A full schedule will be enclosed with your next issue of Poetry News, so stay tuned.


And finally, some poets we are very sorry to say have passed on in the past several months: Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz died at the age of 93; his New and Collected Poems is published by Ecco (USA). US poet and academic Donald Justice died at the age of 78. As I mentioned earlier this year, we are very willing to create a file of obituaries to commemorate noted British poets, if any of our members would like to contribute them. We have had a limited response so far, but the offer remains open.