Saturday, 30 July 2011

Poetry Society EGM - Broadsheets to the Wind

An interesting thing happened a couple of days ago. I read an article in Civil Society with the headline Poetry Society Issues Full and Frank Explanation of Dispute. The 'Full and Frank Explanation' being referred to was the one read by John Simmons at the EGM... the one that was subsequently picked apart and scrutinised as a whitewash of trustee incompetence. That full and frank explanation.

I wrote to Civil Society, asking if their article had taken into consideration Judith Palmer's statement or indeed the audio-recording from the EGM. And guess what happened next...

The article was instantly modified to include a more even-handed account of events which referred to Palmer's statement and the secondary sources surrounding it... and I got an e-mail of thanks from the article's writer. "I have been in touch with the press officer all morning and all of yesterday and they neglected to advise me that this had ever been posted".

It would appear that Civil Society is not the only periodical to allow for a modified stance on the situation. I draw your attention to the following pieces:

  1. Guardian Letters - Betrayal of Trust at the Poetry Society
  2. The Independent - A row that shouldn't hide and important truth: poetry matters
  3. Civil Society - The Poetry Society Issues Full and Frank Explanation of Dispute

Whichever stance you choose to take in this debate, I think it serves as a fascinating example of how PR and the work done by PR companies has shifted from solid to liquid to gas in the age of Web 2.0 where the long tail wags the dog.

If you have not already, then I suggest you read Kate Clanchy on paranoid poets and this message from Anne-Marie Fyfe, former chair of the Board of Trustees. Both are important, well-written documents in and of themselves, but there is equal value in the representations of conflicting opinions occurring in the comments sections. Irrespective of people's personal bias, everyone involved in this conflict cares about the future of poetry.

NB. At time of writing the petition to reinstate Judith Palmer has 874 signatures.

Phil Brown
Poetry Editor


  1. Phil,

    As this non-blogger has been saying, taking advantage of what excellent blog sites I can find ((also Katy Evans Bush, J. Holland) the news reports indicate that the Board's/ours 27,500 spent or, okay specifically the 3000 spent on PR advice was money well spent, for their purposes.

    I wrote to the Guardian querying their initial report and received no response. The publication of Judith C's letter is welcome but this is not an article, correcting or elucidating.

    The general readers of this paper still do not through have access to relevant and by now newsworthy information available to members finally, thanks to various statements unless I've missed something, and why? In journalism-speak, this omission seems to convey a stance, despite this letter.

  2. You're right of course, Eva. But the optimist in me chooses to see an acknowledgement in the letters section as better than no acknowledgement at all... for now anyway. I have nothing but respect for the diligence from all sides in striving for informed representations of the issue. If that diligence continues then journalists have no choice but to see matters for what they are.

  3. I just saw that in the comments section of following Guardian piece (the only place other than Indie where there has been such comments)

    Martin Alexander posted for a second time a message that included info on petition, saying that he was trying again as moderator had removed his first message.

    I see now that his second message has likewise been removed by moderator. What the hell is going on?

  4. Seems like an immoderate reaction... do you have a copy of what Martin said that you could repost here?

  5. Immoderate to say the least.

    I've sent Martin a note saying you'd like to repost here. I don't have a copy. It disappeared pronto that second time.

  6. Martin emailed me comments and maybe best thing is if you give me email to send you his so you can post as you see fit?

  7. Hi Eva. Either send it to or VIA Facebook and (unless he says something morally dark!) I shall run it online. Thank you for all your contributions to discussions on the site