Friday, July 29, 2011

An Open Letter from Kate Clanchy

Extract from an open letter by poet Kate Clanchy, being circulated late Thursday night.

You can read the full text of her letter directly at the members' Poetry Society website, where you can read many other things and also be directed to a Petition to reinstate the very talented Judith Palmer as Director of the Poetry Society.

"Poets are easy to poke fun at. Their lives' work may well be shorter than a cook-book, and have fewer readers. Their art-form is notoriously ill paid. And they fuss, almost by definition, about things which seem incomprehensibly small to outsiders: scansion, line-endings, reviews, precedence. They fuss with each other too, again over goods which may seem petty: a professorship, an editorship, a review.

All this can make for a difficult atmosphere at parties: a paranoia of poets, our Poet Laureate once proposed as our collective noun. But I’ve always maintained that the paranoia was only skin-deep. I was treated very generously as a new poet, and I have always told other new poets that they will be treated generously too. In particular, I’ve always laughed at the notion of a ‘London-based cabal’, and a sinister group ‘in control’ of prizes and publications. I’ve always pointed out, for example, that prize juries rotate, and so does the editorship of our central Journal, Poetry Review. If your work is not the taste of one judge or editor, it might be to the next’s.

I went into the work of organising a Requisition to find out what was going on at the Poetry Society in this same spirit: I thought that something very poetical and principled, something to do with an ampersand, would be found to be the problem, and that everything would be sorted well before I collected my 300 signatures.

I have been horribly disappointed: at each turn, with each anguished email and late-night strange phone-call, I have found out more and more things that seem to have come straight from the imaginings of a paranoid poet. For example, that the Editorship of Poetry Review doesn’t rotate at all, any more. The Editor’s post was made permanent in 2008, and no one was told. Now, this may be one of those facts that seems incredibly petty to outsiders, but to poets, it’s like being told that driving licenses have only been given out through one instructor for the last 3 years, and no one thought that to know this was any of a learner-driver's business. Poetry Review is a gate-keeper magazine. The keys can’t stay with one person."

Read the rest of Kate's letter ...

Sign the petition.

1 comment:

Poetry Pleases! said...

Dear Jane

All I can say is that Kate must have been pretty naive beforehand. Welcome to the real poetry world! Because I personally have always been treated so brutally by the British Poetry Establishment I have never had the slightest illusion about them.

Best wishes from Simon