Thursday, 4 August 2011

Instead of an article or letter

Try convincing newspapers that the sensational angle is not the right angle. Not possible. The story is all that counts, whether the story is true or not. Ever since the Poetry Society debacle started the press story has been feuds between poets. I tried to write to The Guardian, offered a brief article. No acknowledgment. Wrote a letter to The Times about their disgraceful article. No acknowledgement. Yesterday sent the petition letter to The Guardian headlined by Carol Ann Duffy, Gillian Clarke, Jo Shapcott, Liz Lochhead and Simon Armitage et al, as well as a number of prominent writers, hoping it would be published on the day of the Board of Trustees meeting. No letter appears. Still in queue. Blog does appear, noting the petition and linking to it, but without saying anything about who has signed it. Tucked away there.

It's like pointing to a burning building and the press writing about a half-imagined fight in one of the windows.

The only place I could make anything like a rational comment is in the Comments box. If anyone is interested, this was the comment:

KatyEB is quite right, I haven't acted alone. [Katy Evans-Bush is the first to raise this point in the Comments section]. The thousand people who signed, including all the well known poets, have worked together to try and rescue the Poetry Society. The petitioners have never represented the situation as a spat between individuals and certainly not one between poets, since the former Director, Judith Palmer, is not a poet, nor is the acting Chair of the Board of Trustees, nor was the finance director who also resigned, nor are a good number of the current board. Both Judith Palmer and Fiona Sampson (who is a poet and a very fine one) have said publicly that they are happy to continue to work with each other.

But in any case the Poetry Society is so much more than a place for poets. Try looking at its range of activities, including its work in education. It is one of the two major institutions of poetry in this country and since the other one, the Poetry Book Society, has been deprived of public support (though people are energetically working for its survival), the Poetry Society has become all the more important. If, of course, the country no longer cares for its own major cultural product over the centuries, then so much worse for the country. I write this in my Hungarian voice and also as someone with no other stake in the Poetry Society than having been a member for thirty odd years.

It shows the pitiable state of things that I have to come to a comment board to point this out. And the press coverage, Richard, has been the usual opportunistic personality stuff. Feuds are news: constitutions may not be. But public bodies stand or fall by their constitutions.

Both the society and the review were successful. However, it seems to me - and to many many others - that Judith Palmer has had a particularly raw deal, directly after her success (together with her staff of course) in not only saving an institution but increasing its potential scope. The first civilised step is to reinstate her and let a new board, due to be elected this month, resolve any specific difficulties.

Forgive the slight exasperation. We shall see what happens in the meantime. Maybe even what has happened today.


dritanje said...

Hallo George, you have done absolute wonders, beginning with your clear-sighted summing up of what went on, when I found it all confusing - and others of course too, on the poetrysoc members website - but also in initiating the petition, and now in this comment you left, repeating until surely it must sink in, what the actual issues are. Thank you for all your efforts. I'm not surprised if you feel a bit exasperated I would be tearing my hair!

I posted about this on my blog

Thanks again, Morelle

George S said...

Thank you, Morelle. As Katy Evans-Bush says in her Comment the petition is the work of a lot of people and the requisition was at the initiation of Kate Clanchy.

But it hardly matters who did or does what. The original issue is simple and clear enough if people bother to think as well as emote. Now, of course, the law is involved so it's not so simple. Or the law might be involved soon. Or later. Or has been in the past. Who knows? What we know is that lawyers have been involved because the bills are there.

syeds said...

KatyEB ! symbol of Truths.. you made my day.


Padhraig Nolan said...

Very well put George.

leah fritz said...

Dear George,
To set the record straight, you were quoted on the Guardian blog as saying, 'It shows the pitiable state of things that I have to come to a comment board to point this out.' That, I believe, is what Carol was referring to. I would add my own comment which Carol may or may not agree with: I think running a blog of one's own and asking for comments is an ego-trip. Therefore, beyond this comment to defend Carol Rumens, a wonderful poet who has always fought for human rights all over the world, I won't contribute further. Print this or not as you wish; answer or not.
Leah Fritz

George S said...

I don't know that a blog is an ego trip, Leah, and I haven't 'asked' for comments. There is a comments facility that I opened up after some hesitation. I write the blog because it helps me think and I decided to welcome comments because it helps me think further. I have generally enjoyed the conversations I have had this way.

Carol is a very fine poet - she knows I think that because I have reviewed her books in the past. I know exactly what she was referring to in her post on The Guardian and I believe I answered her on the Guardian site. I have had no quarrel with her in the past nor do I have one now. Or if I do she will be the one who lets me know it.

I wrote the blog post on which you are commenting before I replied on The Guardian. It has been an exhausting and tense time: it is not always easy to be offering one's name at the head of a petition to which there seems to be no response and in the course of events in which such passions are brought to bear. I imagine Carol can understand that.

As for you, if you have read so far, that's fine. You'll see I have answered. If not, then this comment is just water under the bridge.

I don't usually print either my blog or the comments but I have never censored or removed a critical one. Abuse is different. I don't think you have abused me.

Whether you contribute or not is a matter for you. Having answered now I probably won't answer again, since this exchange, like the matter of the Poetry Society, is likely to generate more heat than light.