Letter from the Director - Winter 2004/5

Jules Mann

There is no substitute for getting together to talk about poetry with like-minded people. In these days of virtual communication the local poetry group still thrives. Years ago we had the nationwide Poetry Secretariat; today, in an idea initiated by Poetry Society member David Fine, we are pleased to announce the nationwide implementation of the Poetry Society Stanzas. Here is your opportunity to meet other Poetry Society members.
How does it work? Any Poetry Society member is welcome to volunteer their contact details in order to form a local Stanza. We will dedicate a section of Poetry News to publicise all Stanza locations and contact details around the UK. Sometime later this year, when we organise a password-protected area for Poetry Society members, this information will also go up on our website.

As a volunteer-driven initiative, this is entirely up to you, our members, to run as many or as few meetings, readings or activities as you like. And if you feel the Stanza closest to you is too far to get to, or doesn't run the kind of activities you'd like to see, then you are welcome to start your own. When someone new joins the Poetry Society, we'll include in their membership package a list of regional Stanzas, with contact details.

We've already discussed with members whether this is going to work best via email or phone. I propose that we see how it works best for you: if you want to form a stanza, send your preferred contact details to [email protected] or by post to Poetry Society Stanzas, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX. The Spring 2005 issue of Poetry News will launch the first list of Poetry Society Stanzas. Each subsequent issue will carry the contact details for every Stanza organiser who has contacted us. As time goes on, we'll develop more ways for the Stanzas to publicise what they are doing so that our entire membership is aware of it. The obvious platform for that is our wonderful web-based 'Poetry Landmarks of Britain' which has been running for over a year now on our website. You click on a map at www.poetrysociety.org.uk/landmark/ to see what's going on in every area of the UK.

In other Poetry Society news, I'm happy to report that the Poetry Society's Annual General Meeting in November was very well-attended. Four new Council members were voted in: Jane Davies, Anne-Marie Fyfe, Edmund Matyjaszek and Keith Bennett. During the "open consultation" session many members contributed quite useful comments about the newest version of our Memorandum and Articles. The good news is: we're finally getting there! The next draft of the constitution will go before the Council in February and sent out to all members in the Spring, with an announcement of an Extraordinary General Meeting at which members will be asked to vote. Until a new constitution is approved with proxy and mail-in voting, this vote still has to take place in person at the meeting in London . . . (sorry).

A year ago we sent out a survey to members, and well over half of you responded that you would like to see more poems from other languages (in translation). That response has formed the basis for quite a few of our activities for 2005. The Ratiu Family Foundation has agreed once again to fund the Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation in 2005. In order to flag up this competition, the Poetry Society is delighted to launch the first of a series of events featuring poetry in translation on 27 January (see front page). The second event will be in mid-March at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, featuring Welsh and European poetry in translation.

Finally, by the time you receive this it may be time to start pencilling into your 2005 diary the various poetry festivals you'll want to visit this year. One we hope you won't miss is the Ledbury Festival, with which the Poetry Society has planned a two-part event. The first will take place at London Review Bookshop on 19 May in a 'Ledbury Festival in London' discussion / debate on "Nature Poetry in the 21st Century". The poets involved in this discussion will then read their poetry in a Poetry Society sponsored event at the Ledbury Festival in Herefordshire in July. Following that is the Dartington 'Ways with Words' Literature Festival in Devon, which will feature another event in the Poetry Society's Poetry in Translation Reading Series on Sunday 17 July. And finally, mark your diaries for a big Poetry Society National Poetry Day 2005 reading on Thursday 6 October at the Beverley Literature Festival in York. All of these events will offer discounts to Poetry Society members, and we look forward to meeting you at them. More details to follow on our website and in subsequent issues of Poetry News.