Letter from the Director: Spring 2006

Jules Mann

Spring is here but you may have noticed we've been planting the seeds of change here at the Poetry Society over the past year, and many of them are beginning to blossom. Most wildly obvious are the poetry Stanzas: exploding from 23 to 34 since our last edition of Poetry News. Whenever we travel somewhere we contact the nearby Stanzas, and if there isn't one to contact we talk it up while we're in the region. For example, our editor Fiona Sampson travelled with our Membership Manager Carl Dhiman to hold a Poetry Review launch at the Scottish Poetry Library in early February. Several weeks later we were pleased to welcome a new Aberdeen-based Stanza, thanks to our member who had attended that event.

By the way, everyone who has visited the Scottish Poetry Library admires its beautiful (envy-inducing) space for poetry. I had to settle for looking at the photographs of the launch event which we've posted on www.poetrysociety.org.uk/review/launches.htm).In April, thanks to an invitation from the Robert Musil Literature Museum, Klagenfurt's Literaturhaus (Literature Centre), Fiona Sampson will present the Spring issue of Poetry Review hot off the press to the Centre's regular audience, drawn from across Southern Austria, many of whom we hope will join the ranks of our international members and subscribers. The Poetry Review launches are another seed planted by Fiona Sampson which has taken hold. It's a wonderful opportunity for her hosts to present a 'meet the Poetry Review editor' session. Since Fiona started with us last summer she has held ten sessions for local communities and in creative writing departments across the UK and abroad: Dartington Festivel, Deal Split the Lark festival, Second Light Network, Dylan Thomas Centre Swansea, SPL Edinburgh, Spread the Word, Creative Writing Departments at Universities of Aberystwyth, Bangor and Warwick, and the Shaar Arabic-Hebrew festival Jaffa. We also had a generously hosted event at the Dutch Embassy in London in February.

Another annually blooming occurrence is our Poetry News member poem award, the Hamish Canham Poetry Prize. You know about it already because of the annual announcements in these pages, but what I'd like to point out is that it's an excellent way for a generous donor to meaningfully support the career of a talented poet. There are many things we do at the Poetry Society in which a donation of anything from £25 to £250 would make such a difference. Some of you round up your membership payments by an extra £10-100, which is always extremely appreciated. If, however, you're interested in contributing to a poet in residence at the Poetry Café (for example), a prize, or to a poet in residence at the Poetry Society around National Poetry Day, I am always happy to discuss this. We often get calls about a poet visiting a school, but many schools simply can't afford the poet's fee – it would be brilliant to establish a 'scholarship' programme to subsidise those schools who would most benefit but can least afford it. And then, of course, there is legacy giving. This was the choice of the family of Geoffrey Dearmer; thanks to their generosity, each year we're able to award £300 to a poet who has had a poem in Poetry Review but not as yet had a full collection published. So, I just thought while the season is upon us I'd plant some of these ideas with you. If you'd like to discuss further, please call our offices (0207 420 9880) and ask to talk to me.

Has anyone taken up morris dancing lately, or found themselves reciting a Larkin poem from memory? I refer, of course, to the media flurry at the beginning of the year about the sad lack of poetry in the general consciousness. And the lack of sales of poetry books, which makes it sound as if poets and poetry are withering away on the vine. Tell that to the thirty-seven poetry publishers who keep up a lively profile on our website under 'Forthcoming Publications', or indeed to those lively literature event organisers from the Isle of Wight to the holy!holy!holy! in Brighton, the Clitheroe readings in Lancashire, poetry bites in Birmingham, Scavel An Gow in Truro, Stand and Deliver and Black Drop in Nottingham, the Blue Room in Newcastle, the Josephine Hart Poetry Hour at the British Library, the Spoken Word Campaign in Lincoln, and Poetry Unplugged at the Poetry Café every Tuesday. There's more: just go to our Poetry Landmarks of Britain, which grows instead of shrinks so I think we're all inhabiting the poetry planet with our feet firmly on the ground.