Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Poetry Society EGM Special

It is a month when the literary world dances to a tune synchronised with the downfall of tabloid journalism. Silkworms Ink is not here to add to the argument, but we do think that it is important to help others keep track of it.

Friday 22nd July 2011 will be an historic day in British Poetry. At 2PM at the Royal College of Surgeons there will be a Poetry Society EGM (Extraordinary General Meeting).

For those of you with no knowledge of the build-up to this event, I have provided wider reading at the end of this post. I shall summarise the issues as I see them as succinctly as possible here:

  • The Poetry Society has recently been granted a large increase in funding from the government, and there is disagreement as to how this money should be deployed.
  • Several high-ranking members of the Poetry Society and its Board of Directors have recently resigned and there has been no lucid explanation as to the reasons for this.
  • Some people have publicly expressed a concern that the Editor of the Poetry Review is moving towards a level of autonomy from the Poetry Society that is unconstitutional.
  • Dispute exists between whether the Poetry Society’s primary goal should be in broadening the audience of poetry or promoting poetry’s most achieved practitioners.

My engagement with these issues is, at present, purely as a bystander so please do contact me if you feel that I have misrepresented the issue.

My only stake in this is that I love poetry, Poetry Review and The Poetry Society. As a paid-up member of the Society and as a taxpayer, I am paying for these things to exist and have every faith that they will endure and continue to do a very important and admirable job.

"The puzzle of worldly success (not wholly an oxymoron for poets) and how if affects the actual writing of poetry (and indeed what gets published and read), is something we often disavow. Yet it's always with us, and demands that we make peace with it - even if that turns out to be, as Michael Symmons Roberts has it, Bonhoeffer's "costly grace"." - Fiona Sampson

My attendance at Friday’s EGM will not be as a subscriber to a particular side of a false dichotomy, but simply as someone who cares about what is happening. Anyone who has an interest in literature, business ethics or the allocation of public funding should care about what happens at this meeting.

But the Poetry Society’s membership is vast and not everyone is at liberty to attend this meeting – I am fortunate enough to have an employer who values this issue and is willing to let me leave work early to attend. For this reason, I shall be reporting the events of the meeting in real-time on our TwitterFeed and will post a summary the following day on our blog.

For those of you who have not exhausted the public-domain literature on the situation, here is a brief reading list that should give you a sound introduction. It is not in chronological order, but rather logical order (i.e. the narrative that most lends itself to you understanding any insider-speak and obscure references):

Background Reading:

Item 1 An introduction to the dispute from The Guardian
Item 2 Announcement of General Meeting
Item 3 Brief Overview of Petition
Item 4 Agenda for the Meeting
Item 5 A response to the situation from Katy Evans-Bush
Item 6 A response to the situation from Todd Swift
Item 7 A Letter from Ex-Poetry Society Director Judith Palmer to Todd Swift
Item 8 A response to the situation from Lemn Sissay
Item 9 A message from Fiona Sampson
Item 10 Article in the Telegraph
Item 11 A collection of correspondence between Kate Clanchy and ‘The Board’

Phil Brown
Poetry Society Member


  1. Great stuff - thanks for posting on this. How do I put a link to the twitter feed on ThePoetrySocietyUK.WordPress.Com ?


  2. Hi Martin,

    if you just link to

    then that should do the trick.


  3. Clearest and least emotive explanation I've read
    yet. Thanks for the overview.

  4. Good, good. :) I shall read your tweets with interest.

    (A non-paid-up member of PoSoc who really should...)