Letter from the Director

Jules Mann

 

The Poetry Society offices are buzzing these days, for all sorts of reasons. To kick off 2004 our Press and Marketing Officer Lisa Roberts gave birth to a beautiful girl, Ruby; Lisa will now be on maternity leave until June. Following a day of judging at the end of January we're thrilled (as ever) about this year's winners of the National Poetry Competition, detailed on the front page.

 

As Spring approaches we begin to see a lot of the performance poet Joelle Taylor, who comes into the office to organise this year's respect slam. This project reaches hundreds of young poets around London, giving the final dozen an opportunity to perform on stage at the Mayor of London's respect festival. We're very pleased to be asked to run it again this year.

 

This issue goes to press before the final results of our Extraordinary General Meeting on 30 March, but the Annual General Meeting at the end of January was well attended, and there was a great deal of debate around proposed changes to our constitution. I'd like to thank everyone who came and also those who couldn't come but who sent their arguments and ideas ahead of time. May I take this opportunity to say that whether you are a member or a friend of the Poetry Society, we do value your opinions and ideas.

 

February marked the annual retreat of our Foyle Young Poets winners to test their mettle in the remote writing residence of Arvon's Lumb Bank Centre. You'll read one participant's remarkable account elsewhere in these pages. This of course also marked the launch of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award (or FYP as we fondly refer to it). This year's anthology of poems is especially stunning. It's going out on request to schools and libraries around the country, and the website now gives a glimpse of its contents. As members of the Poetry Society you are certainly welcome to order a free copy and encouraged to distribute further copies to all interested parties.

 

As well as snow in London, February featured a wonderful Studio Poetry evening with Katherine Pierpoint and Christopher Reid. As I announced that night, it was to be the penultimate of the Studio Poetry Evenings. This series, started by Christina Patterson, has provided an excellent platform for an intimate evening of readings from some of Britain's most highly-regarded poets (and a few Americans thrown in for good measure). In the course of planning the next three years – something the Poetry Society engages in on a regular basis – we have decided to take a hiatus from this regular series to try some new collaboratively-based events in the Poetry Studio. But before we do, we hope you'll come and help us celebrate Lee Harwood, one of Britain's poetic treasures, reading at Studio Poetry on Thursday 10 June.

 

Speaking of poetic treasures, we've been gathering ideas – forward planning, again – about the Poetry Society's centenary year which looms ahead in 2009. As one of the longest running literature institutions in the country, we recognise that we too are a bit of a poetic treasure, much of it untapped. Last year I received a fascinating letter from Derek Parker, who edited Poetry Review in the 1970s. He had decided to write his "memoir" of that time before he forgot it entirely. This has triggered a keen interest among the staff to find out more about our predecessors. Therefore, we'd like to ask you and anyone you know to please feel free to send us any memoirs or memorabilia (but please no libraries!) you might have relating to the Poetry Society. It would be a great gift to us, and to our archives. And we do plan to produce some wonderful compilations and events for 2009 – only five years away now!

 

In the shorter term, on to March. I know National Poetry Day is not until October (the 7th, to be precise, making a week of poetry festivities possible from the 4th to the 10th), but now is the time when we plan behind-the-scenes to make it all happen with a bang. And what a splash this one is going to make: with a theme of "Food", we've opened the floodgates for fantastic ideas ranging from poets working with chefs in restaurants to producing a bookshelf of books containing favourite food poems suggested by poets around the country. Mark your diary and we'll keep you posted on developments.

 

The first of our collaborative events this year took place on 25 March: a launch at the London Review Bookshop celebrating Carcanet Press's New York School Poets anthology. This event sold out in about two weeks, so look out for more of this type of thing in the future. We're pleased to present Mark Doty on 30 May, again at the London Review Bookshop, an event organised in tandem with the Poetry School's ever-successful workshops with visiting writers. The rest of our collaborative events are still in the programming stages, but I'm pleased to report that quite a few will take place at poetry festivals around the country where the Poetry Society will have a presence. We hope to see you there.