Letter from the Director

Jules Mann


Welcome to winter: the time for poetry shortlists and awards, a new crop of poetry books, and, at the Poetry Society, a time of gathering forces for the upcoming year. As we round the corner into 2004 I'd like to point up the highlights of the Poetry Society year, from the beginning to the end of 2003.


In January the judges of the National Poetry Competition battled out their decision and awarded the top prize to Julia Copus. In mid-February a fantastic group of young poets (our new generation) went on a writing course at Arvon; apparently they are still corresponding with each other and we'll be looking for their names in literary magazines as time goes on. Around the beginning of March we began grappling with the National Poetry Day theme of Britain, as the first bombs were dropped on Iraq… We decided to approach it by showcasing a few of the many languages and cultures that make up today's Britain in our booklet for schools. Throughout May and June the second annual respect slam! generated a new "showcase" team of young performance poets from London. August was the month for judging the Popescu European Poetry in Translation Prize, thankfully resuscitated through a donation from the Ratiu Family Foundation, after a six year gap; David Constantine won the award for his translation of Hans Magnus Enzensberger's Lighter than Air. September marked the launch of "Poetry Landmarks of Britain" and the start of the biggest media campaign ever for National Poetry Day. October, of course, was full of the super-charged atmosphere of mailing out school resources in time for NPD, hosting our wonderful poet in residence, Roger McGough, promoting the Poetry Landmarks and Patchwork Poem on our website and generally contributing to the excitement of National Poetry Day. Immediately after 10 October the entire Education Dept went to the South West of England on an Education Roadshow. I think in November the staff took a collective breath. We also waved off our Press and Marketing Officer Lisa Roberts, who left on maternity leave until April, but is only a phone call away… And finally, December marked the end of another successful series of "Dinner With" poets in the Poetry Café, which also serves as a sneak preview of next year's theme for National Poetry Day: "Food".


I would personally like to thank the Poetry Society's Council for their support and encouragement, and thanks to the marvellous group of people who work at the Poetry Society for making this year so splendid.


Bring on 2004! The judges will gather in late January for the judging of the 2003 National Poetry Competition: we'll launch the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award in February; and other projects including the respect slam and National Poetry Day will start gathering momentum from March onward. The tremendous success of the Roadshow in the south-west has not only generated much more activity for us in that area, but has inspired us to plan for many more Roadshows both large and small in the coming years.


By now you will have received (and, bless you, returned to us) the members' survey 2003–4. As you can see, we're very keen to gather information about poetry resources in your area, so that we might be able to provide discounts to you as members of the Poetry Society. This idea came directly out of discussions with members while on the road in the south-west, and with your help we can increase the scope of membership benefits throughout the UK. Stay tuned…


There is strength in numbers, and we're glad to be able to team up with publishers and other organisations to present some exciting reading events in the coming year: look out for Derek Walcott on 25 February at Queen Elizabeth Hall; an evening in March celebrating Carcanet Press's New York poets anthology; Mark Doty reading at the London Review Bookshop in May; an evening honouring Lee Harwood and his Collected Poems in our Poetry Studio in June; and many more.


Finally, we were very sorry to hear of the death of the poet Charles Causley towards the end of last year; he was extremely popular with adults and children, served as Honorary President of Peterloo Poets, and received the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1967.