Letter from the Director: Autumn 2006

Jules Mann

I'm going to start where I left off in the last issue, regarding funding concerns for poetry. Since I expressed a concern based on conversations with people in the North East, I've learned that Arts Council funding has come through for many of them in their second approach, which is very good news. The point of my article was not to point the finger of blame, especially not at the Arts Council upon which so many art organisations rely, but to scope the situation to raise awareness of the importance of funding for poetry generally. If any members run activities that could benefit from larger budgets, I'd encourage you to explore diverse sources of funding, and in particular look at local councils, Community Foundation, or Awards for All. Our collective approach, especially to community-based funding sources, will help raise the profile of poetry as a dynamic art form that is part of the fabric of contemporary cultural life in Britain.


In resonance with our National Poetry Day theme of identity – and changing identity – our Membership Manager Carl Dhiman joined our staff in 2002 thinking he'd work for the Poetry Society for the rest of his life. Since then he has got married, had a daughter, and discovered the joys of teaching. Carl has now moved on to teach in an infants' school. We wish him all the best in his future career – we think he'll be terrific (and obviously the school does too)! Your new membership manager is Paul McGrane, who has also undergone a bit of an identity change, as this is his first job in the arts sector after many years in the corporate world. Many of you knew Carl either from telephone conversations or meeting him in person; I'd just like to assure you that you – and we – are in very good hands with his successor.

Norman Hidden, who died in April this year, held the position of Chair of the Poetry Society from 1968 to 1971. His widow is making sure that his memoirs get published. We're grateful to her for doing so, as they should be extremely valuable in capturing that part of the Poetry Society's history as we look towards our centenary. If any of our current members would like to attend the memorial service, it will take place on Tuesday 24 October at 2pm at St Lawrence's Church, Hungerford.

After the flurry of National Poetry Day, we continue to bring you an exciting range of events through the rest of the year. On Saturday 14 October, we co-present an all day conference at Lakeside Arts Centre in Nottingham called 'Naming Your Place', which will appeal to anyone who enjoys the power of naming places in poetry; for details call 0115 846 7777 or see www.lakesidearts.org.uk.


Arundhathi Subramaniam, poet, editor, journalist and critic, is the author of two collections of poetry and editor of india.poetryinternationalweb.org. From 17-31 October the Poetry Society is presenting her in a reading/discussion tour around the UK, as fellow editors for Poetry International Web. I hope you'll be able to make one of these events: 17th, Nehru Centre (London); 19th, Manchester Literature Festival; 20th, Stirling University; 24th, Scottish Poetry Library (Edinburgh); 25th, Collins Art Gallery (Glasgow); 28th, Poetry International Festival at South Bank Centre (London); 30th, (Birmingham Library). We are grateful to Visiting Arts for funding this tour.

And the final event in this year's popular 'Under the Influence' series is Ruth Padel under the influence of Gerard Manley Hopkins (note a change in programme, no longer Tennyson). John Stammers hosts this event at the LRB Bookshop on 23 November.


I hope to see as many of you as possible at our Annual General Meeting on 15 November. Instead of a separate mailing we have enclosed the proxy ballot and information about this year's candidates in with this issue, so do check the contents in the package! I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Ruth Padel for her dedication to the Poetry Society in her term as Chair. It has been an exciting time for us all, and she has left a lasting legacy in seeing through the new constitution, creating a new system for Vice Presidents and Honorary Members, contributing tirelessly to promoting the Society and its membership, and running the Council. It was an honour to work with her. Of course, she will still be involved with the Poetry Society, and don't forget to mark your diaries for the next Poetry Society Annual Lecture with Dame Gillian Beer on 9 January 2007, hosted by Ruth Padel, held at the Poets' Church, St Giles-in-the-Fields, Covent Garden.



Poetry News, Autumn 2006