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About

We set up this forum for members of the Poetry Society to communicate and be informed – in the first instance – about the current crisis.

Our only concern is to increase transparency; foster understanding; protect the principles upon which the Society is founded; and to allow it, unhindered by the likes of the current fiasco, to be the powerful and inspiring voice for poetry, poets and audience, according to its stated purpose.

This is a public site, accessible to anyone, and it doesn’t take any specific poetic or political stance. It exists to fill what seems to be a vacuum that has intervened between the Board and the members it is supposed to represent.

History…

The site was originally set up to provide a forum where proxies might be contacted by Members unable to attend the EGM. It was very much our intention that a range of proxies with differing views should offer themselves, and that Members might then choose a proxy who  reflected their views. It was specifically NOT set up to harvest voters for a particular cause.

Visitors asked for more information and, since the EGM had been called precisely because of a lack of information, we started to collate information. Following that, and growing out of information posted on the site, a considerable amount of discussion arose among Members and the concerned public.

Objectivity…

Though some may doubt it, it was our express intention to be open to all verifiable facts and perspectives. I can understand that a close reading of the site might suggest that there is largely a single view and perspective expressed here. This is not for want of trying. All the parties involved have been invited to use the site freely, and particular invitations have been made to the Acting Chair and the Board as a whole.

Inevitably, choices have to be made but we hope they have been sensitive, fair and consistent. One commentator began with an unpublishable rant; I wrote a personal e-mail, we discussed it, and he (or she) re-posted with an intelligent, detailed and helpful post. My intervention was about tone and ad hominem remarks: I didn’t agree with the content, but of course I was happy to post the comment. Why wouldn’t I?

One other commentator has been blocked. Again, this was after considerable personal (and, I thought, private) correspondence. Much of it is now posted of the commentator’s Facebook page. If you’d like to read it, contact me and I’ll send you a link.

A final point for this section – if the scope and remit of this site isn’t as broad as you would like, please feel free to set up a site of your own. I’d be happy to include  a link to it.

Comments and Moderation

At the moment, there is only one moderator, so please don’t suspect a conspiracy if your comment isn’t approved immediately.

Comment guidelines:

  • Please stay on topic and be constructive: we are trying to find a way of helping the Poetry Society get through the current crisis.
  • Don’t make personal attacks on anyone. Don’t use offensive language. We’re poets, dammit. We care about vocabulary.
  • We don’t approve ad hominem remarks or off-topic soapboxing. We publish at the moderator’s discretion. The moderator tries not to be capricious and can be contacted by e-mail here: ThePoetrySocietyUK@GMail.
  • If your comment isn’t approved, it isn’t necessarily because you’re a troll, though of course that is a possibility. I have had innocent comments of mine inexplicably removed from the Guardian. I’m outraged and spitting righteous venom because I can’t complain. Here, though, you can write to me and I’ll try to explain. However, I do have a full-time job and this one is voluntary, unpaid and time-consuming.

Other stuff…

To download a copy of the Constitution, click on this link: Poetry Society Constitution

If you have any questions, please post them through a comment here or get in touch either through ThePoetrySocietyUK@GMail.Com or by writing to Martin@Alexander.Org – we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

__________________________________________________

Finally, a message from the site administrator…

In the interests of transparency, let it be known that this site was set up and is moderated by Martin Alexander, a recent immigrant from the Far East who has always seen the Poetry Society as a wonderful beacon and is anxious that it should not be allowed to go out. Leaving the cover of the third person, I am a poet and poetry editor, most particularly of the Asia Literary Review. Contrary to the assumptions of at least one person, I am not, never have been and don’t aspire to be a Trustee* or member of Poetry Society staff. Before July this year I neither knew not had met or had any contact with any of the people involved in this site and its concerns.

*Since this was written (some time ago!) it was suggested, to my great surprise, that I should be nominated as a potential Trustee. When I started this site, as I’ve said, such a thing stood beyond the prospect of belief. To be clear: my nomination is not part of a long-established cunning plan.

15th September 2011 - I have now been elected to the Board of Trustees and ought to say that according to my obligations as a Trustee, any future comments I make on this site under my own name should continue to be taken as personal and not be assumed to be a reflection of the view of the Board. I also need to find out whether I should hand over management of the site to someone else. We haven’t yet had our first meeting but I’m sure that decisions and announcements on this – and on more important issues – will be made as soon as possible. My warmest thanks to all who have contributed to the site, and apologies to any whom I may have exasperated.

Martin

_____________________________________

If you’re looking for the official page of the Poetry Society, click on the icon below:

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Martin Alexander permalink*
    September 18, 2011 10:39 pm

    I have now been elected to the Board of Trustees and ought to say that according to my obligations as a Trustee, any future comments I make on this site under my own name should continue to be taken as personal and not be assumed to be a reflection of the view of the Board or of the Poetry Society.

    I also need to find out whether I should hand over management of the site to someone else.

    We haven’t yet had our first meeting but I’m sure that decisions and announcements on this – and on more important issues – will be made as soon as possible.

    My warmest thanks to all who have contributed to the site, and apologies to any whom I may have exasperated.

    • stephen wilson permalink
      September 20, 2011 9:17 am

      Thank you Martin. Before you disappear, could you have a look at the documents page. I can no longer download the Constitution. Something seems to have happened to it!
      Best Wishes,
      Steve

  2. Bryan Owen permalink
    September 1, 2011 2:16 pm

    Martin,

    Thank you for your well-balanced comments. As I said earlier, there are candidates among the eleven whom I would like to vote for so I can understand why the decision was made and I understand the comments about all the pressures on the staff in administering this election.

    I think what’s at the heart of my concerns is that had a few of the former members of the Board ‘protested’ a bit more we might have been saved all these difficulties. The Society has paid a high price, and some individuals have paid an even higher price, for the shortcomings of the former Board.

    I don’t want to join a Board where I’m constantly in the minority, or where I’m seen to be a pedant (God forgive) or a complainer. My skills in charity governance and in election monitoring depend on exactitude and clarity. The Golden Rule is to create as few rules as possible – but when you do create them then you must keep to them. That way we have a level playing field for everyone, whatever the context we are talking about.

    The weakness in the system came about when the nominations weren’t properly scrutinised on receipt. My preference would have been for them to be sent back for editing before the 18th August. That didn’t happen – and I understand the pressures on everybody involved.

    However, with so many people claiming ‘pressure’ as an excuse for not doing things well I’m not sure I want to be part of that pressure… if you see what I mean. Administering an election is a part of the job – not an additional extra so I am not sure that ‘pressure’ should be a valid excuse. All jobs have their busy periods. This is no different.

    Anyway, I hope the election goes well and that the new Board will be able to put things right but members will have to be firm otherwise the strong characters will run away with the agenda and the quiet ones will spend their time playing catch up. We don’t want a repeat of what happened before. I’m sure you would agree with that?

    • Martin Alexander permalink*
      September 1, 2011 2:23 pm

      Bryan -

      And thank you, too, for your frank and thoughtful reply. The Society needs people like you on the Board. Is it too late to reinstate your nomination?

      All the best,

      Martin

  3. Claudia Daventry permalink
    September 1, 2011 3:23 am

    I have given myself over 200 lashes with a frayed rope. I wrote more than 200 words, and will edit my post here shortly: thanks to Martin for giving us the opportunity to do this.

    I had just returned from being abroad and, mea culpa, had not time carefully to craft my statement, unfortunately: my application was a reversed decision and very last-minute. Additionally, the request could easily have been seen more as a guideline. It sometimes does work that way. Especially in applications. Otherwise, usually, it would be made very clear.

    There are times, too, when pushing at a boundary can stand one in good stead. It is not illegal, nor is it a moral failing.

    Personally, while I regret the standing-down of a good candidate, I would be glad if the future board did not get too stuck on this sort of detail, but would instead concentrate on the finer detail of the bigger issues. Many of us are writers and many used to being edited (usually with somewhat less draconian results!). This is not a poem for a competition where it is clearly stated in the rules that exceeded word count will result in disqualification.

    This is an election: we transgressors have been suitably penalised. And I do think – I fervently hope – the Poetry Society has more important boxes to tick.

  4. Bryan Owen permalink
    August 27, 2011 11:24 am

    I am writing to inform members that I have withdrawn my nomination to serve on the new Board. I informed the Poetry Society before the proxy information was posted but my details are still, at the time of writing, on the list of nominees.

    Out of the 34 nominees 11 had exceeded their allocated 200 words in their statements. As poets we wouldn’t dream of sending in poems of 50 lines if the rules said 40 was the limit. However, one third of the nominees ignored that rule.

    I raised the matter and the decision has been to cut off the statements at 200 words and to let the nominations stand. I understand the reasons for doing that and, indeed, I might have voted myself for some of those eleven candidates if the circumstances were right. Some of them seem to have good ideas and qualifications for serving on the Board.

    However, the rules have now been bent to accommodate candidates who couldn’t write a valid statement in support of their candidature. This is important for two reasons:

    1. The Society faces its current problems because of a previously apparent cavalier attitude to employment law, the constitution and appropriate codes of conduct and practice. From now on there needs to be a change of attitude in favour of keeping to all of the rules no matter how inconvenient they may be.

    2. Bending the rules now in order to perhaps manipulate the election lacks the kind of integrity I wanted to bring to the Board.

    As an International Election Observer I presume in favour of a strict adherence to the rules otherwise why have them in the first place? I cannot take part in this election and so have withdrawn my nomination. If you are using your proxy votes please do not vote for me.

    Bryan Owen

    • Bert Molsom permalink
      August 29, 2011 9:13 am

      I have the utmost sympathy with Bryan’s view. I took quite some time in editing my statement to ensure that it complied with the rules which, in my opinion, were very clear – “not more than 200 words”.

      However, in the light of the timescales that have been imposed upon the staff of the Poetry Society, I believe that a decision had to be made, and made quickly, in order to achieve what we are all looking for – a new Board and a new start. Whether it was the right decision or the wrong decision it was better than no decision at all. I certainly would have withdrawn my nomination if more than 200 words had appeared on the nomination papers.

      The decision to stop at 200 words for everyone does mean that all Members can come to their own conclusions about the candidates who were unwilling or unable to comply with the rules. I believe that all Members should now rely upon the documents issued by the Society for their decision making and candidate selection.

      Finally I would ask Bryan to reconsider his position as I had come to the conclusion, having read his 200 words, that he was a candidate I wished to support.

    • Stephen Wilson permalink
      August 29, 2011 2:44 pm

      We should be grateful to Bryan Owen for pointing out irregularities and underlining the danger of a cavalier attitude toward rule-breaking. It would be catastrophic for any new Board to replicate the mistakes of the past. But I would urge Bryan to reconsider his withdrawal from the election. The responsibility for conducting the election remains with the ‘old’ Board, the ‘new’ Board could do with his contribution!

      • Laurie Smith permalink
        August 29, 2011 5:42 pm

        But the rules haven’t been bent or broken. Several people sent in statements which were too long, Bryan rightly protested and they’ve been cut to 200 words. So the Society has responded swiftly to a complaint and rectified matters. I don’t see how this is a ‘cavalier attitude’ to anything.

        I’m puzzled why Bryan should give this as a reason for withdrawing. Does he believe the candidates’ behaviour in sending overlong statements was so bad that they should have been disqualified? If so, he should say so. If not, what other action by the Society would have prevented him from withdrawing? I begin to think the gentleman doth protest too much…

        (Bryan Owen’s reply to this comment is here).

  5. August 3, 2011 4:49 pm

    Dear Martin,
    Thank you for putting the above posts up even though they were questioning your authority. And thank you for letting me know in an e-mail that in future you’ll make it clear in your posts that you are administrating the Poetry Society site and not presuming to speak for it. You’re an honest person and are doing your very best to keep this website honest, too. I appreciate that. Keep up the good work!
    All the best,
    Leah

    • Bryan Owen permalink
      August 29, 2011 7:12 pm

      (This is a reply to Laurie Smith’s post here)

      I protest too much? Maybe I do. The rules said 200 words. If any number of words was okay there shouldn’t have been a rule. As there was a rule, and as the other 23 nominees presumably spent time and skill in reducing their statements to 200 words, why should the eleven be allowed to continue without sanction? In fact, why did they ignore the word limit? Why didn’t they bother? None of them has explained why.

      If you sent in a poem to a competition or an article to a magazine and exceeded the word limit your piece would be rejected. Picking and choosing what rules to accept and what rules to ignore were what brought this crisis about in the first palce. I am in no mood to play semantics. Either you have a rule and keep to it or you don’t have a rule in the first place. That way you don’t incur £30,000 worth of costs! As I would have been a voice crying in the wilderness against this attitude I felt that life was too short to get involved with the new Board.

      I will watch from outside. I will ask questions. I simply hope the rules, laws and regulations that the previous Board did not seem to keep to will be treated more seriously by the next Board. That way I hope no one will be forced out of their job!!! That is what is at issue. Comments like the one above merely make me angry.

      • Martin Alexander permalink*
        August 30, 2011 8:51 pm

        Dear Bryan,

        I hadn’t intended to enter this particular debate but since I’m one of the eleven miscreants, perhaps I should respond to your suggestion that none of us has had the courtesy to explain why we ‘ignored’ the word limit and ‘didn’t bother’ to stick to it.

        Actually, I took considerable care in fitting as much serious thought as I could into precisely 200 words. I then had a look at the Poetry Society’s website and noticed that a number of more organised and articulate candidates had submitted their statements early and that these had been posted on the Society’s nominations page. Seeing also that several had exceeded the specified 200 and had not suffered redaction, I rashly followed the mob and threw in an extra sentence which took me ten words over the limit.

        Perhaps I was cavalier in adding those ten rather frivolous and – I admit – unnecessary words. But though I agree that it was definitely a transgression, that you were perfectly right to point it out, and that it shouldn’t have happened in the first place, I do think it was a minor abberation rather than a material one, and not particularly the thin end of any momentous wedge.

        You point out that we offenders have been allowed to continue ‘without sanction’. I’d be interested to know what sanction you would suggest. The truncation that took place was, perhaps, the best that could be done in the circumstances – if something indeed needed to be done. Would anyone have been so hugely advantaged that it would make a difference to his or her candidature?

        As Stephen Wilson has said, and I agree with him, ‘a cavalier attitude to rule-breaking … would be catastrophic’ – but I don’t know that we can put this one in the same league as the others that have lately been drawn to our attention. We do indeed have mountains to deal with, but perhaps this molehill has become something of a hillock.

        In any event, I certainly hope you don’t really think that any of the potential Trustees ‘couldn’t write a valid statement’ and that going over the 200 was a sign of such fundamental weakness as to disqualify them.

        You make a comparison with a poetry competition which specifies a maximum number of lines. I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a good example of chalk and cheese: such competitions are entirely about the poems and their length, while the precise number of words in the statements we have made is peripheral to our putative competence as trustees. I prefer the alternative analogy of disqualifying an entrant to the competition for putting a second-class stamp instead of a first-class one on his or her SAE. To mire myself further in metaphor: no one would deny that counting deck-chairs is important but it’s hard to make a case that it contributes hugely to avoiding the iceberg.

        My next point, however, is perhaps the most important one. Like Laurie Smith, I was startled to hear you suggest that people might have been ‘bending the rules’ to ‘manipulate’ the election and that the staff showed a ‘lack of integrity’. This is rather emotive language, and seems to me to be perhaps a little excessive in the circumstances.

        The staff have worked incredibly hard and under tremendous pressure over the past few months. If you think that anyone has acted without integrity over this issue of the 200 words, please be specific or retract the comment. It’s a strong accusation to make.

        Finally, I don’t think anyone would agree that yours would be a lone voice, crying in (a) wilderness’ of laissez-faire, devil-may-care cow-persons. I’m sure that every one of us wants to make sure that the Poetry Society is properly, professionally and rigorously run; that its staff and Trustees work together positively and powerfully in their allotted roles; and that the Society should be the energetic and inspiring force for good that we know it can be – and it’s a pleasure to see that the latest newsletter shows that this is exactly what is happening.

        All the best,

        Martin

  6. August 3, 2011 3:23 pm

    Frequently posts are signed ‘thepoetrysociety’ on this website. It seems that whoever is signing them in this way – is it you, Martin? – is assuming that he/she speaks for the Poetry Society. At this time, when the Society is in flux, no one, it seems to me, can truly speak for all of the Poetry Society. Therefore, I suggest that whoever has been doing that will in future sign his/her own name, especially when it comes to promoting the petition, which has a lot of support, it’s true, but not of the whole society by any means. It includes names of members, some of them prominent (at the moment aren’t we supposed to disregard prominence?), some of them ordinary members and some who are not members at all. While ‘over a thousand’ is an impressive number, it is hardly unanimous. For all of the above reasons, in fairness to some members who disagree, please sign the name of the person who is writing the posts or sending them out as press releases.
    Thank you.
    Leah Fritz

  7. August 2, 2011 6:58 pm

    Dear Martin Alexander,
    Thank you for making this forum possible. Although unruly at times, it is has been an outlet for freedom of speech and to provide information (as well as the inevitable misinformation). You managed it all very well.
    With all good wishes,
    Leah Fritz .

  8. Angela Croft permalink
    July 28, 2011 10:11 am

    I support the petition

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