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  1. Paul Ranford permalink
    August 18, 2011 9:34 am

    Interesting further statement this morning on http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/mediaroom/updates/

    Additional statement (2): As the Poetry Society looks forward to its AGM and the election of a new Board of Trustees in September, it deeply regrets that its current situation has been the focus of adverse comment. This is not, and has never been, a dispute about the funding or editorial policy of Poetry Review. In particular, we wish to reiterate that reporting of resources being taken from the Education budget to fund Poetry Review was inaccurate. The Board would like to put on record that this was not the case, and that the Board never entertained any such possibility.

    Recent difficulties have drawn attention and concern within and beyond the membership of the Society. We recognise that much of this attention has been unfavourable and unpleasant, and we regret that any of our staff have had to operate in this environment. We apologise for any actions on the part of the Board which may have fuelled this unpleasantness.

    The Board also wishes to put on record the invaluable contribution to the Poetry Society made by Fiona Sampson through her editorship of Poetry Review. Under Fiona’s editorship the magazine has come to enjoy an international reputation. Its pre-eminence in the field and its centrality to the good work of the Society are a matter of record.

    We appreciate the professionalism Fiona has shown throughout this difficult period, and look forward to her continuing to edit Poetry Review. We are delighted to have such a talented poet and editor contributing to the Poetry Society and the broader poetry community.

  2. Paul Ranford permalink
    August 17, 2011 5:04 pm

    http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/mediaroom/updates/

    17 August 2011: A statement from the Board of Trustees

    We are delighted to be able to report Judith Palmer’s return to the post of Director of the Poetry Society.

    Judith Palmer demonstrated enormous strengths in this post and has been a committed and successful Director. Under Judith’s leadership the Poetry Society’s acclaimed artistic and educational programmes were expanded and audience reach extended dramatically. During the two and a half years she led the Society, membership reached its highest ever levels, turnover increased by 23%, and participation in adult and young people’s competitions doubled. She built a terrific staff team, forged links with new partners nationally and internationally, and attracted many new funders and supporters to the organisation. We are pleased that we have been able to agree Judith Palmer’s return to the post of Director with immediate effect and we now look forward to working with her again to start to bring stability back to the organisation. We have confidence in her vision and continuing professionalism, and that these qualities will stand the society in good stead.

    The Board apologises for any of its decisions, statements or actions that may have contributed to the current difficulties.

    The Board suggests an enquiry may be helpful to ensure that best practice in governance will prevail in the future. We ask the incoming Board, who will be elected at the AGM on 14 September 2011, to take this forward.

    With Judith Palmer back in post at the Poetry Society, supported by a new Board, we hope the Poetry Society will soon be flourishing again.

    • August 17, 2011 5:17 pm

      Excellent! Exactly what was wanted, I should think.

    • Angela France permalink
      August 17, 2011 5:25 pm

      Fantastic news!

    • Victoria Cichy permalink
      August 17, 2011 5:59 pm

      Wonderful news! And they said it would never happen…and an apology too!!! Almost too good to be true.

    • Martin Alexander permalink*
      August 17, 2011 6:01 pm

      Wonderful news – time for us all to raise a glass, roll up sleeves and get to work!

      • August 18, 2011 12:02 pm

        So the flapping of the thousand-plus butterflies’ wings worked!

  3. Bert Molsom permalink
    August 12, 2011 8:10 am

    My aim is to be at least the 15th candidate to become a Trustee. Then there will be a need for us all to consider the candidates available and vote accordingly. Coming 15th in the poll will not be a problem for me, having 14 Trustees who have undergone no scrutiny is!

    I will be adding a comment shortly in the Nominations section to address concerns about my use of the word ‘transparency’ in my original posting.

    • Bert Molsom permalink
      August 12, 2011 3:35 pm

      Following Paul Ranford’s clarification of Clause 10 – please replace 15th with 13th in my entry!

    • Paul Ranford permalink
      August 12, 2011 10:36 pm

      Hello Bert

      You only need to be 13th :-)

      Only 12 candidates can be elected.

      Paul

  4. Angela France permalink
    August 11, 2011 11:38 am

    Given the difficulty of collecting nominations (poetry being a minority interest, many members know few other members) and given that I believe we need as many as are willing to stand to do so to give us the best chance of assembling a multi-skilled board, my feeling is that we should offer to nominate/second anyone who puts themselves up here to stand. After all, we are not obliged to vote for those we nominate and can make a free choice when we see the field. Does anyone know if it is allowed to nominate/second more than one person?
    Bert Molsom has laid out his stand in the ‘Nominations’ thread and has no-one to complete the form. I suspect it may be one of those things where people think someone else would do it. (by the way, I don’t know him and have no axe to grind here – I just feel that we need to enable anyone to stand who has shown willing)

    • Paul Ranford permalink
      August 11, 2011 10:13 pm

      Angela

      You can nominate as many as you like – although it probably wouldn’t make sense to nominate more than 12, so call that the practical limit

      Paul

    • anne permalink
      August 13, 2011 9:26 pm

      Angela, I understand what you’re saying here about enabling people to put themselves forward, but really don’t agree about being willing to nominate someone we don’t know. In all the organisations I belong to, the names of the nominators are public. This is important, to show that all is open and above board. When I am voting for board members in a building society, Amnesty, Liberty, The National Trust (shoot me now!) or whatever, it’s important to see who’s nominated the candidate. That tells me whether they are to be taken seriously. I take the nominator’s endorsement as a vote of confidence, and don’t think it’s something to be used lightly.

      I am proud to be one of those nominating Paul Ranford, and I hope that counts for something.

  5. August 9, 2011 10:11 am

    Ready for the Press?

    Whether Judith Palmer is reinstated or not, I do hope that she manages to get the press to use as standard a much better photograph of her than in much of the earlier reporting of the PS diffficulties. Then, as news of the requisition briefly made the papers, the press seemed very keen to highlight a Sampson–Palmer contrast by using Fiona Sampson’s usual media image in the black top with artfully placed right shoulder strap arrangement (in such contrast to tidy left shoulder) against Judith Palmer’s specific knitted poem publicity shot, showing her as a homely knitter. In so far as pictures speak, the press mimed ‘maybe a bit racy’ versus ‘obviously dull’. It was unfair, but a ‘no-brainer’ choice for a picture editor to make. I fear the knitting image may be a bit of a millstone around Palmer’s neck.

  6. August 7, 2011 11:08 am

    In case you didn’t get the Guardian yesterday, I had a short Diary piece in there about the campaign and the petition. They don’t put the diary online it seems, so I’ve reproduced the text on the ‘News’ part of my website: http://pollyclark.wordpress.com/news/
    Polly

  7. Paul Ranford permalink
    August 6, 2011 2:28 pm

    The AGM Notice sent to members says:

    Trustees currently on the General Council:
    Laura Bamford (Acting Chair), Emma Bravo, Duke Dobing, Alan Jenkins, Anne Jenkins, Wendy Jones, Barry Kernon, Jacqui Rowe, Jacob Sam-La Rose, John Simmons.

    This is not a complete list – it excludes the new members of the Council, co-opted recently:
    Cary Archard, Edward Mackay and Robyn Marsack

    Paul

  8. Laurie Smith permalink
    August 6, 2011 10:36 am

    Two slightly unfortunate things about the published nomination arrangements:

    1 It’s pointed out that trustees have to attend 5 meetings a year in London, but there’s no mention of the fact that they can claim for fares and, if necessary, overnight accommodation. Without this information, people living at a distance from London may be put off from seeking nomination. I’m asking the Society to send out a clarification to members.

    2 People nominated by current Board members need only two signatures but everyone else needs three. This isn’t new – as far as I can see it has always been this way – but it makes it easier for a Board to perpetuate itself. This doesn’t seem to fit the needs of a national mass-membership organisation very comfortably.

    I think the Board needs to be more responsive to the membership with trustees elected by the whole membership (easy and cheap in these days of email), more trustees from the regions and Board decisions reported in Poetry News. This might do for starters. Any other ideas?

    • August 6, 2011 11:36 am

      Yes, Laurie, I do support an open franchise and national voting for members of the board – although proxy votes are acceptable for this election. I live in Glasgow and have decided to stand for election. Finding suitable proposers is rather difficult, though. All my friends who have signed the petition appear not to be members!!

  9. August 4, 2011 8:26 am

    The future direction of the Poetry Society

    As nomination forms are sent out I would like to ask members what kind of society they want? What should be the priorities of the new board?

    Clearly their first concern should be to repair the damage we’ve all been discussing. However, what should the longer-term priorities of the new board be? Should we be a broad church? Should we focus mainly on the best of new poetry? What educational role should we have?

    Maybe a prior question is why do we join the Poetry Society in the first place? Is it to receive four copies of Poetry Review each year? Is to be part of a larger poetry-loving community? Is to receive information and support?

    As we consider who the new members of the board should be we need to think about what kind of society they should be trustees of so that we can, if possible, avoid some of the suspicions there seem to be as to the motives of some of the players in recent events. The petition of over a thousand signatures to reinstate Judith Palmer seems to indicate the will of a large proportion of the membership but what about those who did not sign?

    Maybe we could develop a thread here that would be helpful to those considering whether or not to nominate someone or, indeed, to be nominated?

    • Sibyl permalink
      August 4, 2011 12:51 pm

      Good questions. I suppose I think of the Poetry Society as rather like the Church of England. (With all the tensions that the Anglican Communion has of holding itself together.) By nature I’m a non-Conformist, but I still value the existence of a more traditional/established body.

      The outreach and educational work – both in and out of formal educational institutions – is hugely important. While teachers can teach this thing called ‘literacy’ and can teach to an exam syllabus, few are confident when it comes to poetry. I also wonder whether conventional poetry publishing is becoming less important in the general scheme of things. Looking at new(er) media would seem a good direction.

    • Angela France permalink
      August 4, 2011 2:03 pm

      Hi Bryan
      Just a note of interest about ‘those who did not sign’. For those of us who joined the requisition, read this site daily, or otherwise follow these events online, it seems unlikely that anyone wouldn’t have heard of the petition. However, when I sent the details out to the mailing list (of around 200)I have for the reading series I run, a number mailed me back saying they hadn’t heard about any of this (and a number of them signed). We should consider, from this, that there are PoSoc members who are still unaware of anything not in the official poetry society newsletters.

  10. August 1, 2011 10:01 pm

    I just heard from someone who is not a member that today is the day Judith Palmer is supposed to have been reinstated. Is that true? Was she? If not, what happens now?

    • August 1, 2011 10:38 pm

      No it isn’t, Leah. It is when the petition says it is, 19 August.

      • August 2, 2011 12:10 pm

        Dear George,
        Thanks for getting back to me. 19 August is before the next AGM, so I wonder how that can be done with everything still up in the air? Have I missed something? (Probably.)

        Anyway, while I appreciate what you are doing to save the Poetry Society, I feel that conscientiously I cannot join you. My deepest instinct says that art ought not bend to the whims of money; quite the other way around. We do what we do whether or not the money follows. On the poetry page there’s something I wrote a long time ago after another trying Poetry Society AGM. It’s meant as a kind of manifesto for the society, as I said there. If we bow now, what demands will be made on us later?
        I’m not absolutely sure that poets need a society – just publication in good places, well read.

        I don’t oppose the petition. I just feel that it will lead us into more trouble.

        With best wishes,
        Leah

      • August 4, 2011 12:50 pm

        Leah, in response to your “art bending to the whims of money” comment, there are a couple of important clarifications. The Poetry Society does not exist to support the needs of poets. It exists to encourage the love of poetry. And the ACE grant isn’t given to facilitate the making of art; there are other grants for artists that do that. The ACE grant funds the activities of the Poetry Society, which include all kinds of project work in schools and communities, the annual lecture (open to non-poets), and more.

        We know from centuries of culture that poets don’t need money to write: Anonymous was a poor man. But widening exposure to the art form, and working with schools to do the best by it, and working with grown people to rekindle their love of it, and enabling a space in our increasingly mercantile culture for a non-commercial art form to flourish – these things do need a bit of money behind them. With literacy standards falling – with a higher level of functional illiteracy now in Britain than in 1912 – helping schools and communities to love poems takes on a new importance.

        your idea that Art shouldn’t bend to the whims of money is very high-minded, but I feel it’s beside the point. If what you’re saying is that no one needs a Poetry Society, with its stanzas and competition and outreach work and café and lectures and so on – well, that’s a different thing.

  11. CHRIS HARDY permalink
    August 1, 2011 7:56 pm

    Could someone who knows how the website (?) that is handling (?) the petition works explain why it repeatedly refuses to send me the email I apparently have to click on to activate (?) my account (?) or is it register (?) so I can then sign the f’ing petition – there is no contact email for the managers (?) of the website so it is impossible to ask them – please explain why I cannot log in despite filling in the table of required information .. very frustrating ..

    • August 1, 2011 8:07 pm

      I’m sorry about that, Chris. I am no techie. Can anyone help?

    • August 1, 2011 8:07 pm

      Dear Chris – yes, this has been frustrating for several people. I’ve tried to give clearer instructions on the petition page. Have a look at that and let me know if you have more success this time. Martin@Alexander.Org

  12. August 1, 2011 2:43 pm

    Two observations: 1) Perhaps Paul Ranford’s clarification of who did what (or didn’t) to whom on this page ought to supplant his earlier Statement, or supplement it on that page.
    2) Why do the men only reply to other men, for the most part?

    • August 1, 2011 2:52 pm

      Depends what people are asking, Leah. I can answer some questions but not all. Not immediately at least. It depends also on whether I am being addressed directly, as by Bryan. Then I reply.

  13. July 31, 2011 2:57 pm

    Can anyone tell me how new members of the board are to be nominated? I’ll be obliged for any relevant information. Thanks.
    Leah

    • anne permalink
      July 31, 2011 3:11 pm

      Leah, nomination papers will be sent to members. Here is more from yesterday’s bulletin:

      “The AGM will be held on 14 September 2011 at 6.30pm; a venue will be announced very shortly. The timeline for the AGM is as follows:

      By Thursday 4 August 2011: Formal AGM notice and nomination forms sent out to members by email and post and posted on Poetry Society website; plus request to RSVP to the Poetry Society to confirm attendance (for numbers).

      Thursday 18 August 2011: Deadline for nominations to Council; to be returned to The Poetry Society by email or post.

      By Friday 26 August 2011: Full agenda, candidates for nomination and proxy forms sent to members by email and post and posted on Poetry Society website.

      Friday 9 September 2011: Deadline for proxy forms to be returned by post or email to The Poetry Society at Betterton Street.

      Thursday 14 September: AGM, venue tbc, 6.30pm.”

  14. July 31, 2011 2:38 pm

    George, I do hope that those who offer themselves for nomination to the new board will do so with their eyes open, knowing that the autumn is likely to be very demanding of their time and perhaps their nerves!

    Here is Scotland it is a requirement that new Trustees should always have a full induction before the first meeting. That presupposes that time can be found if the new Trustees live in different parts of the UK. With all members of the old board resigning I wonder who would be capable of giving that induction so that new Trustees can hit the ground running. Not all of them will be following these threads, for example.

    And as many of the new Trustees will not necessarily know the others how will a Chair be elected? Or will that be ‘organised’ beforehand by the in-crowd, thus perpetuating the lack of openness and transparency engaged in by the old board?

    These are real and practical questions. One priority will be for the new board to make its peace with ACE in order for their funding stream to continue, as well as sorting out what room for manoeuvre they have in regard to the Editor’s new arrangements which, I understood, were supposed to be temporary. The current board is supposed to be having talks with Judith with regard to her resignation. How will be the new board take over those discussions without being behind the game? The old board has no authority (since the EGM) to make new commitments whether financial or contractual. They are only in post in a caretaker capacity to oversea the election of a new board, and to ensure that bills and salaries continue to be paid in the interim.

    I foresee a very heavy agenda. I wonder if anyone with the right experience would really be willing to take on responsibility for sorting out the mess bequeathed by Mr Carpenter and his colleagues? We are in a very sobering situation.

    • July 31, 2011 2:49 pm

      I realise that, Bryan. I imagine the new trustees might have to include people with some experience of such work.

      Though the old board is resigning there is nothing to stop them being re-elected, and the three newly co-opted members might well be re-elected.

      I don’t think the same rules apply in England as in Scotland regarding inductions. A very good idea, I imagine, but have not seen it in place here. In the long run – and the short run too – I myself am a poet not a natural server on boards. I am all for involving as many well-motivated professionals as possible.

      It is indeed a very difficult situation though I am guessing that the Arts Council might be glad to find some resolution in the interim and might well be supportive. No doubt it will be hard work though, you’re right on that. But what does on do with a mess?

      One step at a time is, I think, the only possible policy.

      • August 1, 2011 11:48 am

        Hi George,

        You say ‘one step at a time’. If the nomination papers are to be sent out this week the next step is almost upon us, I think. Members will have to think very carefully about who they nominate, and those being asked to stand will need to consider the demands on their time and nerves! Those decisions are imminent.

        I hope the franchise will be exercised widely – not just by the in-crowd who live in or near London. I hope all members, for example, will be made aware of the ability to use proxy votes to elect the Trustees of their choice.

        I hope the new board will also be representative of the United Kingdom, not just of London or the academic purists who seem to want to use the Poetry Society as a vehicle for their own work (and maybe egos!).

        My own view is that the Poetry Society should be a broad church and should work to its remit in the Constitution. It should be an inclusive organisation for all who love poetry and who want poetry to be more widely appreciated. If the society becomes inward looking and more London-centric then what is the purpose for those of us who live a distance away belonging to it?

        So… one step at a time… but the next step is almost upon us. Who will be nominated? What kind of board do we want?

        For what it’s worth I hope none of the present board will offer themselves for nomination this year. That would be unwise and would put them, if successful, in an awkward position amid new colleagues. The Constitution provides for a ‘break’ in their servie. I hope they will take it and allow new Trustees the opportunity to calm the ship and steer a new course.

  15. July 30, 2011 5:11 pm

    I’d like to repeat here part of a comment I made on the previous page:
    I have a couple of modest proposals that may help the poetry society for the future.
    1) Ask some well-known poets – Carol Ann Duffy, George Szirtes, Jo Shapcott, Judith Palmer, perhaps – to approach the high-powered lawyers who charged so much, to donate, say, £25,000. to the Poetry Society for good will. They can afford it, and could certainly use some good will these days.
    2) Ask Judith Palmer if she’s sure she still wants to work at her old job. She did very well helping to raise funds there, but the ambience may not be one she finds most compatible – too many fiefdoms (the magazine, the board, the president, the vice-presidents, the members!) – as a Director, when there are many other situations where she might have more control and, indeed, earn more. The job at the Poetry Society might then be split in two – a fundraiser and someone good at getting along with the various personalities involved, seeing to it that they are all functioning happily together. Perhaps she subconsciously really wanted to resign, while on the surface she felt called upon to assert herself in the face of a quasi-insurrection. Something to think about.
    The important thing is for us to think about the future, not the past.
    All good wishes,
    Leah Fritz
    P.S. Who are the 14 trustees already appointed? I went out for a walk and missed that.

  16. Paul Ranford permalink
    July 30, 2011 2:39 pm

    To clarify a point raised by Bryan Owen:

    Re co-options – the Trustees may fill any casual vacancies on the Board by co-opting new members, provided they do not thereby bring the number of Trustees to more than 14 in total (Article 16.2). The three co-options were thus entirely constitutional – there are now 14 Trustees.

    All co-opted members must retire at the next AGM, although they are automatically eligible to stand for election by the members.

    Paul

    • July 30, 2011 2:40 pm

      Many thanks, Paul.

    • July 30, 2011 4:38 pm

      Thanks Paul and for everything you’ve done. I hope to see you on the 12th.

      Thanks also to Ms Baroque and Angela France for focussing on what Judith’s statement actually says. As George says this petition is not about blame – it’s about reinstating Judith Palmer and saving the Poetry Society from ruin.

    • July 31, 2011 8:59 am

      Please spell out the names of the interim trustees. Thank you.

      • anne permalink
        July 31, 2011 9:10 am

        Hi Leah. This from the Members’ Bulletin yesterday:
        “Following the EGM on 22 July, Cary Archard, Edward Mackay and Robyn Marsack have agreed to be co-opted to the Board and will attend the next Board meeting on 4 August.”
        Otherwise as far as I know the other Trustees remain in post as shown on the Poetry Society’s About Us page.

      • July 31, 2011 9:40 am

        Dear Anne,
        Thank you so much for the information.
        All best,
        Leah

  17. July 30, 2011 12:06 pm

    I note that, apparently be default, Fiona Sampson’s contract is now permanent – making her Editor of Poetry Review for the foreseeable future. If this was by default who exactly are the persons responsible, given the financial consequences to the Society? If the situation is as I’ve described what further action, if any, can be taken – presumably none?

    I also note that the changes to Fiona Sampson’s contract were for a three month trial period ending in August. Given the consequences of the change in working arrangements for the Society does that mean she will be returning to her previous contractual arrangements on the 1st September?

    • August 1, 2011 4:19 pm

      Dear Bryan Owen,
      The Arts Council gave special commendation to Dr. Sampson’s editorial work.
      Yes, I believe her contract is ‘permanent’ and so, I think, was/will be Judith Palmer’s. I put permanent in quotation marks because, obviously, nothing in this world is. The Poetry Society is most fortunate in having these two brilliant women willing and eager to work for it, given the need to please so many people – each other, the president, the chairperson, the board of trustees, the vice-presidents, the other staff members, and all of us! And for no enormous amount of pay!
      With kind regards,
      Leah Fritz

  18. July 30, 2011 12:01 pm

    Having followed all the published correspondence and comments, and not knowing personally any of the people at the centre of this debacle, may I ask if Paul Carpenter, the former Chair of Trustees who has resigned, can be called to account for his actions?

    • July 30, 2011 12:12 pm

      It’s Peter Carpenter, Bryan, and this petition is expressly NOT concerned with pointing fingers or seeking blame. It has only one purpose, which is to reinstate Judith Palmer and so save the Poetry Society from ruin.

      • July 30, 2011 1:17 pm

        Thank you for the correction, George. I understand the purpose of the petition which I have signed. What I am asking is how do we go forward now. You can’t be sure about that until you ahve owned and analysed the actions of the past. What exactly brought us to this point?

        My concern is for the new Board to be elected in September. It looks like being nominated could be like drinking from a poisoned chalice. A group of 14 individuals have to take the Society forward in a prudent, professional and lawful way. Is it possible? If it is, then how?

        I don’t know the parties and I live in Scotland far from the London-centric Society’s activities and machinations. I am wondering whether it would be dangerous to my health to even think about being nominated even though I think I might have some experience to offer. I am sure others will be thinking along similar lines – do we really want to get involved in this?

        On the other hand there is the poetry, and there are the staff.

        Politicians of ten say ‘lessons have to be learned’. In this case lessons do have to be learned but that can only be so if there is a clear understanding of what went wrong and why. That is why I believe Peter Carpenter needs to be called to account and explain what he did, and why he did it. That seems to me to be the only prudent way forward.

    • July 30, 2011 1:30 pm

      Bryan,

      I agree it is difficult to know how exactly the new board can move forward, but it has to come to a resolution in order for the Poetry Society to continue. There has to be proper governance. In order to achieve this there will have to be sense and good will on all sides and I cannot believe that such sense and good will are totally absent. I suspect things happened too fast and, once started, the process might have seemed impossible to stop. What happened was reprehensible, extremely stupid and it has already lost the Society money, reputation and friends.

      This is the first step necessary for stabilisation. We should worry about what comes after once this step is taken. For my part I have no desire at all to start star chambers and would not support any move to do so.

      And incidentally, I myself live in Norfolk, about two hours from London, and most poets I know don’t live in London. Far too expensive!

      • July 30, 2011 1:46 pm

        A proper calling to account isn’t the same as having a star chamber. Given what the star chamber did that’s an unfortunate use of words. A calling to account, though, is the essence of democracy and open governance, wouldn’t you agree? We have Judith Palmer’s account of what happened. Does Peter Carpenter have a different account?

        Unless we know exactly what went wrong and why it went wrong it’s difficult to see how we can 1. amend the Constitution; 2. prevent such things happening again in the future.

        I agree that the new Board has to make a start and try. My concern is that it might prove to be too difficult or too stressful for many good candidates to offer their services. And unless the new Board institutes a programme of in-service training for Trustees (there are plenty of opportunities to do so via ACAS and others) then amateur Trustees are likely to continue to behave amateurishly.

        Ideally the new Board will in due course become invisible and operate a light touch as far as is possible. Their function is to enable the Society to promote poetry and poetry education, and to support poets and poetry lovers. When I sit down to work on a poem I don’t think about the admin of the Society, for example!

        I trained as a teacher in Norfolk so I know the county very well indeed. From up here in Glasgow, though, you are part of the far south and very close to London! Perceptions… the bane of our lives, perhaps!

    • July 30, 2011 1:55 pm

      There was nothing wrong with the constitution as far as I am aware, Bryan. It was the fact that the trustees did not act according to it. I do agree that the new trustees should take advantage of the various in-service opportunities. I have, in my time, been on the board of three charitable organisations and we were always looking for expertise.

      Boards are also psychological entities. You will remember the old adage about camels and committees. It may be that some members of the board were more forceful and less accountable than others. But while the trustees insist on being treated as a single body we will not know that.

      Fair enough about Star Chambers, but Peter Carpenter, Laura Bamford and the rest have had plenty of time to reply. What we would not want is more time and more money spent on legal process.

      As I say, it is not the constitution that was wanting. Once a new board is elected it will have to agree a certain course of action with its members and funders. That is the priority.

      • July 30, 2011 2:07 pm

        I do agree with what you say, George, although I am wondering about one or two provisions of the Constitution. As you say, the Board didn’t adhere to it or to standard HR practice and that seems to be what has landed the Society in this mess.

        I note, for example, that the Constitution provides for a maximum or two co-options to the Board but that three have been co-opted by the EGM. Did the EGM take cognisance of the Constitution? If not, have they acted outwith the provisions of the Constitution? If so, the three co-options are not constitutional. Maybe you can clarify that for me?

        I think we are in broad agreement. Like you, I have had experience on other boards and committees, and I have written Constitutions for voluntary groups. My original point, though, is that there are lessons to be learned but you can’t easily learn them without knowing exacty what happened – and that means allowing each party to explain it from their own perspective.

        On his watch Peter Carpenter ran up a £24,000 bill, caused a spate of resignations and and that caused the ACE to suspend its funding. Is he allowed to melt into invisibility without be asked for a proper accounting?

    • July 30, 2011 2:29 pm

      We were advised by the trustees’ constitutional adviser at the EGM that there could be two co-options and, because the board had recently lost members and was short, there could be an extra member from the floor, Bryan. That is as I recall it. Someone might correct me if I am wrong.

      The most obvious lesson is that there are procedures laid down that should be followed. That is such a blazingly clear lesson it should drawn to the attention of every member of every board as a first step. Drawing it to their attention may in fact be a useful lesson in itself. As you will know from your experience of voluntary groups one of the main difficulties of any board is getting new people on in the first place. Better still if they are the right people. The Board of Trustees was not comprised simply of poets but of people with some previous appropriate expertise. Why they did not choose to apply it is a serious question.

      Saying that, I do not by any means discount an enquiry of some sort, at some level. What I do say is that this petition is not about that, nor would I personally want to be part of such an enquiry or even the agitation for it. I am just an ordinary concerned member of the Poetry Society without any office in it. In the meantime I assume the Arts Council might take a view and am willing to wait until such a view is taken.

  19. Paul Ranford permalink
    July 30, 2011 9:44 am

    Judith Chernaik’s letter to the Guardian – published 30 July:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jul/29/betrayal-at-the-poetry-society

  20. Paul Ranford permalink
    July 28, 2011 6:12 pm

    Hello all :-)

    After serving out my notice I shall leave the Poetry Society on Friday 12 August. I will remain a member of the Society and I will be at the AGM to watch the end of the job that Kate Clanchy and so many others of you started and stuck at so wonderfully. I hope to stay in touch after that. I’m not leaving the fray, not in any way. But we’ll see, that’s for another day.

    The reason for writing then? We shall (I dare say) hold a small drinks party for staff and friends at some stage late on 12 August – probably around 6pm or so, probably in the Poetry Society café (to be confirmed, but I can’t imagine we won’t start there). It would be very nice if you could join us. Certainly, over the last few days, enough people have promised to buy me a drink and I would very much like to allow you the opportunity of delivering on that promise. And if I cannot accommodate all the promises thus delivered, I shall certainly be able to point out one of several more deserving members of staff – good friends and willing providers of the moral support that I have needed throughout this ghastly period – who can.

    Please do come.

    Paul

    • Eva Salzman permalink
      July 28, 2011 8:17 pm

      Paul,

      I’m in America – though following everything closely – so will not be able to make that which is very disappointing.

      I’ll be raising many glasses to you from here, to the disapproval of my puritan neighbours no doubt..

      I wished the the recent petition had likewise included your reinstatement but that may not have been appropriate and indeed you may be more than happy to move on.

      However, I’d be very sad if you weren’t to return to the fray when it isn’t a fray, in your former capacity, as your brave and frank letter shows you to be exactly what this society needs right now, more than ever.

    • July 30, 2011 12:15 pm

      Paul – I can’t be there in body as I have to be at Dove Cottage to run a course, but would be glad to have a drink with you at any time.

      There in spirit – or indeed spirits.

      Thank you for everything in the meantime – for all your work before all this, and now.

    • August 11, 2011 3:25 pm

      Paul, I’m in Edinburgh at the Festival but will raise a glass to you on 12th to salute all your fantastic work.

      • Paul Ranford permalink
        August 11, 2011 10:17 pm

        Dear all

        Thank you!

        I shall return the toast. It may be a long evening…

        Paul

  21. July 28, 2011 1:08 am

    Palmer’s statement presents a version of the truth in a voice that sounds far more credible than Bamford’s at the meeting.

    In action the power of a web to make real what was, prior to it, incapable of occuring. Listening to that meeting it sounded vaguely surreal: lots of gasps, chuckles and mob energy sweeping to and fro; but above all a sense of some PS web-community ‘power’ exercising itself for the very first time. The surreality of those present, unaware of how it – reality – sounded to those of us absent who, without the web, would remain ignorant of what went on behind the hitherto firmly closed gates of England’s sniggery po-biz citadel.

    It’s obvious to a trained legal eye that Carpenter and Bamford were trying to pull some sort of a stroke. For whatever reasons, they were very determined to enact Sampson’s proposal to them – that she edit PR in perpituity – with the minimum of ‘publicity’ (let’s say); and though a whiff of ‘why’ hangs about the debate now, of course; at the time these machinations were in full Machiavellian conniving and calculation, oh wot a different outcome our playas were expectant of, one imagines.

    Twelve trustees and two of ‘em firmly in a frame from which their actions and intent paint themselves in the worst probable light. But a majority of the rest of their vol-colls must’ve also wanted to grant Sampson’s proposal to be elevated, on a point of law, to Poetry Review Editor for the foreseeable future?

    ~

    But let’s not get carried away. Whilst the music of what happened made lots of unprecedented and positive notes, there was also a sense of, false, black and whiteness to it all. A spotless and morally pure bunch of Requisitionist on your wheelbarrow, incapable of being unkind, outraged at the disaster, none of you crafty careerists ever acting the berk, pulling strokes in your professional life, of course. Maybe this is why there’s no digging deeper into the can of murk, your potential Caliban hidden off stage, out of sight of the animals and children, faces fixed in deep concern, every act and written word flattering, and two-dimensional unless we extend ourselves to say: Me too Judith and Peter, just like you I’ can be, acting recklessly and fucking it up, big time. So, let us say no more, board of trustees, and look forward to the next lot doing ‘it’ for Engand, Poetry, Society. God save the Kings and Queens of PR Palmer and Carpenter, on a board of lovers, joy and sorrow mixed to be, poetry that is, the music we make.

    Ahem.

    Oops. Amen.

    Forgive one for straying off topic, tis but a go at imbas forosnai, beginning in ignorance and ending in idiocy. I have been under a lot of stress in my professional life lately.

    Tommorow.

  22. July 27, 2011 9:53 pm

    D’accord, Christopher!

  23. July 27, 2011 8:07 pm

    Having read Judith Palmer’s statement, I can see that, whatever the rights and wrongs of the affair, there is likely to have been a clash of cultures between Palmer and (now former) Trustee Chairman Peter Carpenter. I don’t know Judith Palmer’s background but it comes across as industry, arts administration or business of some kind. For instance, she is aghast at the trustees not recognizing immediately ‘the necessity of contacting the HR consultants….for employment law advice’.

    Carpenter is an English teacher at Tonbridge School and although things have no doubt changed somewhat since my time teaching in the independent sector, I still very much doubt that the idea of HR consultants would cross any independent school teacher’s mind without prompting. Those types of schools neither work nor think like industry in those and many other respects. They are just different, very different.

    • Roy Cross permalink
      July 27, 2011 8:30 pm

      Yes, but a culpable clash of cultures. Amateur trustees – in the worst sense of that word – micro-meddling inexcusably in a clearly (and necessarily) professionally run operation on the basis of tittle-tattle, gossip and personality. Dreadful stuff!

      • July 27, 2011 9:44 pm

        Quite so. But trustees (as opposed to directors) are often amateur or out of their field (if not depth). Interest in or skill at poetry are wholly unnecessary qualities in a trustee of the PS. Ability to manage and further the aims of an organisation is required. Belief in the cause helps a bit sometimes, but can also become partisan or distorted. We need dispassionate skills.

    • July 30, 2011 12:24 pm

      Christopher, the HR advisors are a firm which exosts to provide HR advice to organisations too small to necessitate in-house expertise. Schools, in fact, seem very consultant-happy these days – but in any case the issue isn’t one of “culture” – it’s about having the expertise to steer a registered charity without crashing it onto the rocks of employment law.

      Note also that, where Peter Carpenter may not have come from a culture where first recourse is to Rupert Murdoch’s firm of solicitors, the board as a whole seem to have had no trouble accommodating THAT one. And the HR advice was already paid for, too.

      There is a plenitude of free training available for trustees, so that they know what their responsibilities are. The lowliest admin assistant gets trained in what’s expected of them; it seems rather naive of these people to have imagined that they could mess about with people’s contracts of employment with no knowledge of the relevant legal positions, and no repercussions. That’s not about culture.

  24. July 27, 2011 10:25 am

    My membership came up when all this was kicking off. I didn’t renew. If the move to promote ‘names’ and cut back on education happens I won’t be reconsidering this.

    • July 27, 2011 2:25 pm

      There is no question of promoting names, Jan. Just trying to save the Society so it can carry on doing what it did very well with its Director, and will carry on doing, including all the education.

  25. July 25, 2011 5:00 pm

    I cannot understand how the Board can still be in place after a vote of no confidence by Members and mounting evidence of gross mismanagement. They ignored well-established procedures for employment disputes, imposed ‘confidentiality’ on staff and Members concerned about an unexplained string of resignations, and have spent a large amount of the Society’s reserves on legal fees for hypothetical legal challenges, evidently to cover up their own mismanagement. Their actions have put intolerable burdens on the staff and have put the Society’s ACE and NPO support in grave jeopardy.

    Although they’ve signalled their intention to resign at the next AGM, how can they be permitted to hold on until then? On what grounds could they possibly ‘negotiate’ with anyone, having been disowned by the Members?

    They have betrayed their trust and should be compelled to go, with immediate effect.

    Judith Chernaik

    • Eva Salzman permalink
      July 25, 2011 8:12 pm

      I think most discussion is now going on under After AGM section at this site, although that appears to have dwindled in recent days at precisely the moment one had hoped it wouldn’t. .

      Also, there is currently discussion on the matter at Baroque in Hackney, Jane Holland’s Raw Light and George Szirtes.

      You allude to just another of the growing number of completely unfathomable mysteries. Somewhere or other someone quoted something about procedure or constitution as regards mass resignation although it’s my understanding that indiviiduals could have stepped down and been replaced by others capable and ready to step in temporarily until AGM but none did. I’ve wondering too on several sites where the charity commission is in all this. Go Figure, as they say.

    • July 25, 2011 8:24 pm

      Judith, We were firmly told by the legal adviser on the platform – that’s who it was, not an unfathomable mystery – that the board could not step down immediately because there was no legal way of electing a new board on the spot and the society could not be without a board. A proper nomination and voting procedure has to take place. There is, apparently, a procedure that governs this.

      The other problem was that the board chose to speak as one. Individual resignations were offered to them but they refused to take that step. They clearly need to cling together, Instead three new members were co-opted onto the board. They may be able to influence decisions taken between now and August (ie in a couple of weeks) when the nomination process starts.

      • Eva Salzman permalink
        July 25, 2011 8:34 pm

        Yes, you’re right George, it’s not at al unfathomable in legal terms. I guess it’s more finding the ways of the world unfathomable when often what seems right turns out not to be right at all.

      • July 30, 2011 11:23 am

        It is right that the Board continues in office to oversee the election of a new Board at the forthcoming AGM in September, even though they no longer have the confidence of the members.

        It’s analogous to a government losing a vote of confidence in parliament. They stay in office until a new parliament (and government) are elected. You can’t have a country without a government. Similarly you can’t have the Poetry Society without its government otherwise there would be no body with the authority to call an Annual General Meeting. In these circumstances the present Board has two responsibilities: 1. to ensure the continued employment of its staff pro tem including the payment of salaries and other bills; and 2. to prepare for the election of a new Board.

        I don’t know any of the parties involved in this situation. However, I have had a great deal of experience of committees and boards in the charity/voluntary sector. The present Board (especially its former Chairman) acted unconstitutionally and contrary to good practice. There is no good reason why members of the society should also act unconstitutionally. You can’t correct an injustice through unjust means.

  26. July 25, 2011 8:25 am

    I’ve written a report on the EGM – you can read it here:

    http://fortnightlyreview.co.uk/2011/07/pret-a-poetry-in-the-surgeons-hall/

    Michelene Wandor

  27. July 24, 2011 12:16 pm

    Questions about ACAS from Catherine Smith
    I have two questions; can anyone help, please?
    If I remember this correctly, Laura Bamford said the Board had suggested ACAS to both Fiona Sampson and Judith Palmer, and that this ‘was not felt to be possible’ or some such vague statement. Is that correct?
    If it is correct – my second question; if both Fiona and Judith had agreed to ACAS’s involvement, would that not have been a much cheaper, speedier and less adversarial course of action?
    I’m asking these questions from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know much about employment law or conflict resolution, (perhaps Tom Bell or Katy Evans Bush can help here?) but who feels that the Trustees decision to spend a huge amount of money on consulting lawyers was a tragic waste of resources. I know the clock can’t be turned back. I know hindsight is a wonderful thing. But it seems to me, if I’ve understood this correctly (and please tell me if I haven’t, I found it hard to remember everything that was said at the meeting and didn’t take notes), that the opportunity to go to ACAS was
    suggested and refused, and surely there are lessons to be learned here.
    Thanks, and best wishes to everyone, whatever our individual opinions or positions. Catherine Smith.

    • July 25, 2011 1:28 am

      As I remember from the recording, Laura Bamford stated that Fiona Sampson and Judith Palmer had declined to be involved with ACAS; but it was suggested that regardless of this, the board could have received advice from ACAS on how to deal with the situation.

      Chrissie Gittins

  28. Roy Cross permalink
    July 24, 2011 11:45 am

    Just been looking at the (long!) lists of trustees and vice-presidents and honorary menbers on Phil Brown’s site (http://silkwormsink.blogspot.com/2011/07/poetry-society-egm-commentary.html) and I’m wondering why I haven’t heard of a single one of the Trustees – is that maybe because they are ‘professional’ technocratic committee members equally at home with poetry and homeopathy and wildlife preservation, or is it because I don’t mix/read in the right circles? And can real poets – in abundance on the two other lists – not be arsed to do the trustee thing?

    • Alice N permalink
      July 24, 2011 8:39 pm

      @Roy

      Honorary Membership is presumably offered to recognise achievements in poetry – so it’s no surprise those are well-known names.

      Important qualities for Trustees include administrative skills, integrity and sound judgement: NOT (reiterating a comment towards the end of the EGM) the ability to write good poetry! Without needing to promote books etc it’s less likely their names are going to get known.

      Trustee posts are voluntary roles so you may consider the motivation for anyone to do it; few thanks and, if things go wrong, plenty of scope for opprobrium.

      Alice Northgreaves

  29. Bert Molsom permalink
    July 24, 2011 10:59 am

    I believe that Judith Palmer has to look after her own interests. My view is that, even after she commences legal action, there will be the opportunity for the (new) Board to make the offer of a compromise agreement. However I would point out that I am not a solicitor nor an employment law specialist but would hope that there is one out there amongst the membership they could at least comment on my view.

    The timing of the AGM is important but, I don’t believe, critical. What is important is that the Board must be given the mandate to immediately resolve the issue of Ms Palmer’s position even if legal action has been commenced to ensure, no matter what the outcome, the Society acts in an honourable way.

    Bert Molsom

    • Eva Salzman permalink
      July 24, 2011 11:16 am

      I heard somewhere that Judith has to decide by MONDAY whether to return to job. If the Board truly regretted I’d imagined by now they’ll have issued an apology and on the case with this immediately as regard Ranford too, surely.

      Who’s co-opted on board? We should all know and write to them immediately. I wouldn’t blame her for not returning if nothing’s changed however. I guess the indications would be what actions this Board has taken since meeting to put this right. Unless the regrets were empty words.

      This is dreadful to put Judith in this position as I keep saying of taking to court. I DON’T think there’s a case yet. . At one point I thought she’d want her job back but may well have decided against it by now. How does one protect her in interim against precisely that which persuaded her to leave in first place? Remember the comments in Ranford’s letter? Remember the protected anonymous board members and their treatment of staff as described there….in contrast to named Palmer and Sampson? How has this been fixed to permit her return?

      • July 24, 2011 11:38 am

        People – specific board members, meaning the then Chair and Vice-Chair (now acting Chair) – were in fact named at the EGM, several times over.

        The Board opted for corporate responsibility so in effect they are all named.

  30. July 24, 2011 10:41 am

    Reinstatement of Judith Palmer

    Would it be feasible, when it comes to nominations for the new board, for members to demand that its first duty to be the reinstatement of Judith Palmer? What she does after that would be a matter of negotiation with the new board.

    I ask because I can see serious problems arising if the current board drag out ‘negotiations’ until she loses her entitlement to legal action. That would be a terrible injustice. If however she did sue the financial problems of the society might well be insurmountable.

    Perhaps if she were assured that the new board would be committed to her, there might be a reasonable way out of this.

    She would, of course, have to be consulted as to whether she wished to pursue such a course of action. And the same should be offered to Paul Ranford too, who spoke so clearly and movingly at the EGM.

    Extraordinary suggestion for extraordinary circumstances and an extraordinary meeting. I realise.

    I fully accept that this may be impossible but I am seeking ways of repairing at least some of the harm.

    • Eva Salzman permalink
      July 24, 2011 11:04 am

      I have for some time been asking queries here about liability of board and am glad to see others asking too. Surely the Arts Council and Charity Commission need to be addressed directly.

      I’ve also been talking about how board staying puts Judith in a terrible situation of having to protect herself at expense of society and returning now to exactly what she left…..and then running out of time for a suit. Surely this explains why they hung on as there is no other plausible explanation.

      She deserves an apology and carte blanche if she could be persuaded to return so as not to face again that which persuaded her to leave, and ditto Ranford. We need people like them: effective and with integrity. But surely some apologies are in order and some persuasion.

  31. Jonathan Briggs permalink
    July 24, 2011 7:47 am

    Is it the case that The Board knowingly and wilfully contravened the Articles of Association of the Poetry Society? Are they then personally liable for any legal costs arising from that contravention?

  32. July 21, 2011 4:04 pm

    George Szirtes is someone I would trust with my life, which is why I have asked him to be my proxy. He cares about Poetry and about the right thing to do.

  33. Laurie Smith permalink
    July 21, 2011 11:51 am

    The meeting is about money

    For most of its history, the Society’s offices were a fine early Victorian house in Earls Court Square with four floors and a basement, elegantly proportioned rooms for readings and meetings, and a garden. During the 80s, through mismanagement by the Board unchecked by the membership, the house had to be sold to pay off debts and the present, much cheaper building bought – originally a narrow-fronted shop and certainly less suitable for the national poetry organisation.

    We are in a similar siuation now. As we will hear tomorrow, the Board has already spent £24k on employment advice in the last 3 months from the expensive solicitors Harbottle & Lewis. A further £3k has been spent so far on PR advice from Coleman Getty and then there is the cost of the professional facilitator at the meeting tomorrow. The Society’s current liquid assets are about £120k and the Board has already spent at least a quarter of this since April.

    The Director may well have a good case to claim constructive dismissal – presumably this is why so much has been spent on legal advice. If she makes a claim and is successful, the Employment Tribunal would award her at least £50k in relation to lost salary alone and the Society would incur at least another £20k with Harbottle & Lewis. This would virtually wipe out the Society’s reserves.

    Then there is the fact that the Arts Council is withholding £78k of the previous grant which was due to be paid on 7 July. This is because the Society isn’t currently fulfilling its funding agreement with ACE in terms of quality of governance and management as well as other matters. In other words, ACE is dissatisfied with the Board’s performance.

    If ACE continues to withhold its funding and the reserves are spent, the Society will be in great difficulty. Perhaps the only option will be taking a mortgage on Betterton Street which burdens future members with debt. Perhaps there will have to be another move, to an even less suitable building.

    So the EGM isn’t about Poetry Review or its editor, or factions, or who said what to who. It’s about money and the Board’s mismanagement of it. This is why I’ve agreed to stand as a temporary trustee till the AGM in November, in the hope of stopping the slide into insolvency. I hope as many of you as possible will join me.

    • July 21, 2011 4:05 pm

      Mammon is the root of all evil, Laurie, and what you say really rings true.

    • Penelope Shuttle permalink
      July 21, 2011 6:12 pm

      Thank you, Laurie, for this assessment of the problems on the eve of the EGM. Wishing for sense to prevail and for good governance to be enabled to return to The PoSoc.

  34. Martin - admin permalink*
    July 21, 2011 11:37 am

    Questions suggested by Members

    The people who signed the requisition (over 500) were asked to submit questions for the Board. These have been collated by Lydia Macpherson and are included below.

    This isn’t a list of the questions that we expect to be asked during the meeting: there just wouldn’t be time, and Members will want to focus on the key issues as outlined in the requisition. What we don’t want to do is to use up all the time on peripheral matters, and leave the key questions unanswered! (And that is not a cunning way of saying that I have a hidden series of pet questions to override everyone else’s…)

    Neither is it an edited list – no question has been excluded for any reason other than to avoid repetition.

    Finally, this list does not represent the agenda of this website and the people who run it. There IS no agenda other than the one already stated in the requisition. We’re too busy to be running a conspiracy on top of everything else….

    Precis of Requisitioners’ questions:

    Transparency

    • what has been going on and why were members not told about it?
    • why didn’t the Board give a detailed account to members of the circumstances that led up to the Director’s resignation and the resignation of the President and the Finance Director?
    • why did the Board meet confidentially in April 2011 without the Director or a representative from the Arts Council present?
    Poetry Review
    • why has the Editor’s post been made permanent?
    • why didn’t the Board consult members re making the post of Editor of Poetry Review a permanent one?
    • does European law really require the choice between temporary and lifetime tenure of a post? We imagine that it does not. Therefore, why was the decision made to appoint the Editor of Poetry Review to a lifetime rather than a fixed-term tenure? Was there a discussion paper or minuted discussion at Board level of the appropriate length of time for editorship? If the Poet Laureate has ten years, why could the PR editor not have five, say, in the interests of both the PR and the Editor?s
    • why was the editor’s line manager changed from the Director to the Board?
    • why did the Editor of PR no longer want to report to the Director?
    • Does the Board see a distinction between Poetry Review as the organ of the Poetry Society, and other literary magazines which are established and maintained independently e.g. Magma, The Rialto? If they do not, why not?

    Resignation of the Director

    • when the Director tendered her resignation, why was there no handover period and why was she kept from the building?
    • why have the Board had recourse to expensive lawyers? who authorised the decision to employ the lawyers? have they taken legal advice about possible action against the Evening Standard?
    • Precisely how much money has been spent on, or earmarked for, legal advice, a facilitator, or other assistance which could have been got for free from members or other poetry-lovers?

    Arts Council funding

    • did the board discuss, plan or implement any changes to the Poetry Society structure, or any aims or policy, that differed from those put forward in the successful Arts Council funding application made under Judith Palmer’s directorship? if so, were all the board in agreement with this?
    • are there now problems with obtaining the funding from the Arts Council?
    • What actual, hard evidence is there that ACE would prefer a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the current board – that, if this was the outcome, its funding for the Society would be more, rather than less, secure?
    • Has the AC actually expressed its confidence in Judith Palmer (in writing)? – how do we know that the AC believes her departure from the Poetry Society to be a negative outcome?

    Policy and future spending

    • could the Board articulate the distinction between governance and management?
    • what does the Board consider their remit to be in terms of both the governance and the mission of the Poetry Society?
    • are there differences of opinion within the Board about the role of the Poetry Society and if so, what are they?
    • Is there a change of direction from the policy of education about and promotion of poetry?
    • will the Board lay before the meeting the agreed programme of spending for the next three financial years, and where there has been no agreement reached, detail which areas ARE agreed and explain specifically what areas are being contended, by whom, and on what grounds, including any provision or planned expenditure for legal fees in detail?
    • is it the Board’s policy to continue their apparent current practice of ignoring correspondence from ‘ordinary’ members, ie those who are not influential?
    • Please could notices be posted on the website (or better still emailed to members) of (a) publication of latest statement of account, and (b) time/place of AGM and any other General Meeting?
    • Could the Minutes of all meetings where decisions are made (i.e. both General Meetings and those of Trustees only) be posted on the website as soon as available, and certainly within a fortnight of each meeting?

  35. Bert Molsom permalink
    July 20, 2011 2:58 pm

    Martin,

    Thank you!

    You have put in to words what I have been trying to express with my occasional comments. I am concerned over the long term well being of the Poetry Society and if the present Board are unable to provide a coherent explanation as to why we are in this current situation then a change of Board will be necessary. If they are able to show that their activities over the last few months have been in the best interests of the Society then they are entitled to continue.

    However, the silence of the Board is bound to create worries, allow the gossip to take root and encourage people to see conspiracy theories behind all the closed doors.

    I, too, joined the group requisitioning the meeting out of concern for the Society and, also, had not met or known any of those who have been co-ordinating the action. No one should underestimate the time, effort and mental energy that is necessary and I am very grateful to you, Kate and others to have taken on that burden.

    Bert Molsom

  36. zoe permalink
    July 20, 2011 7:28 am

    i still have no idea what’s happened…baffling innuendos make me hesitant about signing a proxy…can anyone explain SIMPLY – what on earth has happened to force so many people to resign???

    • Samantha permalink
      July 20, 2011 12:44 pm

      This is exactly why I’m attending the EGM on Friday, Zoe, so we can ask the Board that very question as nobody else has the answer to it.

    • Martin permalink*
      July 20, 2011 2:28 pm

      What’s it all about?!!

      There have been several posts like Zoe’s, asking for a simple explanation of what has caused so many to resign. This is what we have been asking the Board to do all along, and we hope we’ll get some answers at the EGM.

      There is also a sense that some people may think that all this originates in a factional dispute between power bases, ideologies and insider groups, and that this progressed deliberately from the start, through a political campaign, to the EGM, and thence to the central aim: a plan to attack and depose individuals.

      I want to make it clear that the reverse has happened: something catastrophic and unexplained was taking place at the heart of the Poetry Society; the Board wouldn’t say what it was and we had no idea; and the EGM was called purely so that we could find out.

      This is our agenda in its entirety: getting the Board to tell us what’s been going on and why, so that we may make informed responses as Members who care about the Society and its continued good work.

      As we’ve progressed, evidence has slowly emerged which suggests improper practices, decisions made without properly consulting the relevant parties or informing the Members; and, finally, the identity of and consequences for the individuals involved. All this needs to be explained by the Board to the Members at the EGM. My perception, and that of many others, is that this is about the Board, and not about the staff or the membership. What, if anything, is to be done about the specific decisions made by the Board is something that should properly be dealt with at a later date and in another meeting.

      Some people have also suggested that we have made up our minds on a vote of no confidence, whatever the Board says. This is not the case as far as I am concerned, and it goes against everything we’ve all been working for. There are at least two sides to every story and we are all fallible human beings. Even me.

      However, though we have serious concerns, and lots of questions to ask at the meeting, I shall vote on the strength of the answers given by the Board at the EGM, and that, I think, is what the vast majority of us intend.

      We know, as you have read in Kate’s post in The Mail today, that the Arts Council of England has grave concerns and we hope to find out from the Board what these are, how they arose, what it proposes to do in response to them and what implications they will have for the future of the Poetry Society.

      ACE has told us:

      “We are monitoring the situation closely and we have made very clear to the Society what it needs to do, as a matter of urgency, in order to re-establish compliance with the terms of its current funding agreement – particularly in the areas of governance, management and leadership, reputational risk, and reasonable care.”

      That statement is clearly not about factions or individual members squabbling: it’s about the role of the Board and, crucially about the funding of the Society. The statement implies a lack of confidence in the Board on the part of ACE, and is specific about the fact that the Board is not complying with the current funding arrangement.

      Next to this concern, the rest of the gossip and speculation that has been doing the rounds seems irrelevant.

      This is clearly a crisis brought about by the Board, not by the requisition.

      We have been properly careful to focus only on the issue of the Board’s management, as outlined by ACE above, and not to be distracted by the roles of personalities within the Society. It will be up to the Board to explain these things.

      For the moment, I want to make these points clear:

      1) We began, like other ordinary members, with no inkling of what had caused the series of high-level resignations
      2) in spite of many requests, there was no explanation from the Board. Instead, there was a series of bland announcements which seemed designed to impede the members in their aim to find out what was going on
      3) this reluctance on the part of the Board prompted Kate Clanchy to start the requisition, which itself was met with what seemed like resistance from the Board
      4) as we worked to convey our concerns, it began to seem as though this failure of the Board to communicate in accordance with its obligations to members was systemic, and it also seemed likely that the Board had behaved improperly in a number of ways
      5) as more specific and verified information emerged from a number of sources, we realised that these improprieties arose from particular decisions made by the Board, and that though these decisions inevitably affected individuals working for the Society, it was the Board’s management of the Society that was in question
      6) when we started this we had no idea of where it would lead or what issues would arise.

      What about the questions? No secrets here:

      Why did so many people resign so suddenly?
      Why weren’t you open about explaining things in the first place?
      Why does ACE have such serious doubts?
      Tell us how you’ve spent our money over the last three months.
      Why should we have confidence in you as a Board?

      It’s been suggested that a vote of no confidence in the Board, should it occur, will bring the Society down. That’s just false logic. The Board and the Society are not the same thing. But it would be irresponsible not to be prepared for this eventuality, and several highly regarded people have already offered to step in as an interim Board, if necessary, until the re-election scheduled anyway for the AGM in November. Vultures gathering? I really don’t think so. These people don’t need this kind of unpaid work, the slagging off that some have already received or the notional prestige it might attract in others’ eyes.

      For information: the Board is composed of Trustees appointed by Members to serve the interests of the Poetry Society and its members for a fixed period. It is understandable that some Members may perceive that the current Board has been behaving as though the Poetry Society were its private company.

      A number of people seem to think that the Vice Presidents are involved in all this and I’d like to stress that theirs is an honorary role only: they are not directly involved in overseeing the management of the Poetry Society.
      ___________________________________________

      Finally, I write this not as a spokesman, but as an ordinary and long-term member who has never had anything to do with the personalities, the management, or the Board of the Society. I’d met none of the people involved before this month. I didn’t know Kate or any of the others and have never met her: I just offered to learn how to make a WordPress site to co-ordinate proxy votes. I’ve invested more time in it than I can spare, but that’s nothing compared to the time, effort, passion and intelligence that Kate has provided. We, with many other ordinary members, are doing this out of concern for the Society and because it’s the right thing to do (and yes, I’m aware of how cheesy that sounds).

      I’ve lived abroad for many years and the Society was always a distant but highly-valued beacon. I’m not interested in personalities or factions – but I do care about the Society and want it to be again the hugely supportive, enabling and inspiring institution that I always thought it was. And to end on a Swiftian note, I have no aspirations to get anywhere near a place on the Board, my brain being well past its briefly fertile phase and my managements skills long barren.

      • July 20, 2011 4:27 pm

        This is great Martin, really helpful.

      • July 20, 2011 8:21 pm

        well said, Martin. this a brilliant, clear letter. you are all doing wonders in our names.
        Sally Evans

  37. Lynda How permalink
    July 19, 2011 10:02 pm

    I was very unhappy to receive an email from Malinda Kennedy, someone I do not know. I see from here she has contacted other members too.
    I’m quite capable of listening, reading and considering all opinions about the crisis in the PoSoc without a stranger writing to tell me what’s what.
    If you are reading this, what gives you the right to use my email address? Don’t do it again.

    • Penelope Shuttle permalink
      July 21, 2011 2:17 pm

      I too received an email from Malinda Kennedy,who I do not know, along the same lines, and my response is the same as yours, Lynda.

      • Penelope Shuttle permalink
        July 21, 2011 2:18 pm

        ps, and my email reply to Malinda Kennedy was returned as undeliverable.

  38. Martin - admin permalink*
    July 19, 2011 1:19 pm

    See Fiona Moore’s Displacement blog for an interesting analysis of the state of play….

  39. Sue Kindon permalink
    July 18, 2011 9:22 pm

    As my email to Malinda Kennedy has been returned as undeliverable, I will publish my reply here in the hope that she may read it.

    I take exception to this unauthorised use of my email address. Please delete my details and do not contact me again.

    • Fiona Finlay permalink
      July 19, 2011 2:02 pm

      I feel exactly the same. She is breaking data protection,

      Fiona Finlay

      • Fiona Finlay permalink
        July 19, 2011 6:36 pm

        Dear Malinda

        Data protection aside. Kate Clanchy asked for all emails to be kept confidential. Please do the courteous thing and delete my email from your address book. Sending me an email in this way is not going to persuade me of your opinion. Thank you.

  40. July 18, 2011 6:04 pm

    I have received the letter below in my email from a PS member I don’t know, and I think it belongs better here. I have to say I have no idea what dark deeds the requisitioner is talking about, nor the ‘dogfight’, nor the ‘un-named protagonists’, nor indeed the ordinary members! I am an ordinary member, I paid the same as I assume everyone else did and receive no special privileges. This campaign for an EGM has been undertaken in an absolutely transparent and exemplary fashion with complete open-ness. Kate Clanchy is paying a high personal cost in terms of her time and energy and it’s a p[ity that this is perhaps not appreciated.
    warm wishes
    Polly Clark

    Dear Poetry Society Member,
    As an ordinary Poetry Society member who was somewhat disconcerted by stories of questionable activities there (mainly from the blog ‘Baroque in Hackney’) I signed the petition for an EGM. Indeed I would still do so.
    However, It now seems to me possible that battle lines were being drawn for regime change and that the issue presented was not the whole story. Things do not appear to have been frankly set out and this has resulted in a horrible dogfight, driven by un-named protagonists.
    There is no moral high ground in any of this. I hope there will be many ordinary members voting at the EGM. I also hope they will take account of the possible political motives which could have been present in the decision of people to resign. Certainly a highly structured political campaign has been mounted around the presenting issues, so I feel no compunction in attempting to highlight this fact.
    I hope you will excuse me making use of your email which was on the Members List of email addresses inadvertently sent out by Kate.
    Yours sincerely,
    Malinda Kennedy

    • Lydia Macpherson permalink
      July 18, 2011 7:48 pm

      Dear Malinda

      I am in receipt of your email about the Poetry Society.

      First, I believe you had no right whatever to use the list of email addresses which was inadvertently sent out by Kate. This is a cheap and underhand thing to do and I should point out that you are breaching the Data Protection Act by doing so. Kindly remove me from your list (which incidentally is not a list of ‘Members’ but a list of people who are in support of the Requisition).

      Secondly, I too am an ‘ordinary’ Poetry Society member. So are all the other people who have signed the Requisition. There has never been a hidden agenda – all we are trying to do is to find out how the Poetry Society has got into such a mess and how the situation can be improved. I find your emotive use of the vocabulary of war very silly.

      Your email will achieve nothing apart from wasting a lot of time.

      Lydia Macpherson

  41. Sandra permalink
    July 18, 2011 11:53 am

    With reference to Kate Clancy letter emailed Monday, July 18, 2011 11:15 AM
    You can’t turn the clock back.
    This is a dismal assembly of grant-dependant bureaucrats, the least effective of whom is Robyn Marsack, who whilst residing just off the Royal Mile, has none of the skills necessary to serve Scotland’s regions effectively, be it either Doric on the one hand or Gaelic on the other. We Scots wish she would go.
    No more George Szirtes please.
    I thought Judith Palmer has resigned but has an outstanding claim for constructive dismissal against the Poetry Society. She is sidelined.
    The members should nominate and vote in their own choice of candidates, without a list of candidates being wished upon them.

    • Eva Salzman permalink
      July 18, 2011 12:05 pm

      I hadn’t thought this list necessarily proscriptive but a reply to concern about alternatives able to take things forward for now (or backwards to point when ACE awarded the grant, on the basis of application presented then). There is nothing to stop others from putting themselves forward. Regardless, a permanent Board would be elected at November AGM as I understand it.

    • July 18, 2011 3:05 pm

      That’s fine by me, Sandra. As if I were looking to be on any board! But don’t worry, if I get on it I am only interim.

    • July 18, 2011 3:39 pm

      IF there happens to be a vote of confidence at the meeting, and IF it should happen to fail, and IF any of the current Board were to resign before or at the meeting, it would be foolish for there not to be a contingency plan for the interim period before the AGM.

      You have, I suppose, the right to dismiss George’s generous offer to step in and see us through this swamp to firmer ground.

      This is reluctant preparation for a rescue, should it be needed. It’s not a putsch. These people are genuinely concerned because the Society seems to be in dire straits. They are not after personal prominence, partisan power or pushing people out. I’m grateful to them.

      (With apologies for what might be considered, arguably, as an annoyingly alliterative answer.)

      • July 18, 2011 5:25 pm

        Just as a PS, Sandra, I have never personally asked for state money and have never been a bureaucrat. I wouldn’t be any good at it anyway. When asked to do things I have tried to do them.

        I am very happy to withdraw my name from any proscriptive list if people prefer. Nor am I sure how far I have impinged on Scotland.

    • Chris Gribble permalink
      July 18, 2011 4:06 pm

      Sandra

      Feel free to dismiss any or all of the names on the list provided. Feel free to agree or disagree with the need for the EGM, the requisition and anything else associated with the discussion on these pages.

      However, I think it ill-mannered to insult people in public, particularly when you do some from a position of partial anonymity. Resorting to what could easly be considered by someone less naturally charitable than myself to be nationalistic drum beating is simply contemptible.

      Yours,

      Chris (Gribble)

    • Johnny Cook permalink
      July 20, 2011 9:18 pm

      You can’t have a case for constructive dismissal unless you have resigned. (This is pretty obivious.)

  42. Martin - admin permalink*
    July 18, 2011 9:41 am

    E-mail from Anne-Marie Fyfe (convener of the Troubadour Poetry series) to her readers, reprinted with her permission:

    “Dear Poetry Supporters

    Something of a one-off – but a necessary response to all those who’ve written to this address or via the website asking for more info on the present Poetry Society crisis, and asking particularly what members and others can do.

    For those who haven’t seen the press reports, the present Board (my term as Chair ended in 2010, I’m afraid, though I’m still a member as I’ve been for twenty-something years) introduced significant structural changes with the result that the Director, President and Finance Officer resigned.

    Since the dispute attracted media attention, the Board’s Chair, one Trustee, and an Honorary Vice-President have also resigned and, baffled by mismanagement, lack of consultation and total secrecy on the changes, a group of 500-ish members have petitioned for (or requisitioned) an Extraordinary General Meeting (to which they’re legally entitled, being more than 10 per-cent of the membership) at which to ask the Board for an account of events: this has been agreed and scheduled for 22nd July in London, but is being misrepresented in some quarters.

    I can tell you all that it isn’t about a dispute between the Society’s Director and its magazine editor, or about how the latest, increased, Arts Council grant is to be allocated. It is simply about Board mismanagement and lack of consultation with the membership.

    So I really would encourage anyone who’s interested in supporting the widest possible range of poetry, both in the Society’s flagship ‘Poetry Review’ and/or in live readings, who values the Society’s ‘educational’ activities as much as ‘promotion’ and ‘enjoyment’ of poetry, who reads famous and not-so-famous poets, from both large and small publishers, who wants to ensure that ordinary members aren’t sidelined – to join, if you haven’t already done so, the requisitioners (who include Poet Laureate, Carol-Ann Duffy) by e-mailing organiser Kate Clanchy (kateclanchy@gmail.com) and she’ll give you details and if you can’t be with us in person on 22nd, how to organise a proxy before Tuesday evening.
    If you’re not already a member, and you care about poetry, this is the time to join, so e-mail Kate Clanchy and she’ll advise.”
    ___
    Anne-Marie Fyfe (Organiser)
    coffee-house poetry at the troubadour
    http://www.coffeehousepoetry.org

  43. Bert Molsom permalink
    July 17, 2011 10:04 am

    I have just read the attached on the Telegraph website in an article by Brian Moore – does this ring any bells (I have asked this question of Laura Bamford).

    “The problem with leaks, rather like prohibition, is that when they give a public airing to something that should be known but which is suppressed to avoid embarrassment, there is every justification. If the RFU could decide what should and should not be released instead of embargoing things like Second World War D-notices, the properly confidential matters could be distinguished.”

    I feel we have now reached the stage where we should all proceed in a dignified and SILENT manner until Friday. Backing each other in to a corner will not provide for a calm and informative meeting. I will not be able to attend but I do want to hear that the air has been cleared and that the Poetry Society is moving forward.

  44. Eva Salzman permalink
    July 16, 2011 2:00 pm

    I’d really determined not to write here today, particularly as so many others are saying what I’d say, I must comment on Neil Rollinson’s apparently annonymous online posting in which he refers to several poets, me included as ‘hideous henchmen (women) of the SS’.

    What is and isn’t a distraction from the matter at hand, I keep asking myself throughout all these events? I can’t help but wonder about a climate that allows and even encourages people to post such posts anonymously.

    The Nazi reference above comes hard on the heels of an incident I’ve written about here already, with an unknown person forwarding an email of mine directly to Fiona Sampson, this containing a link to a YouTube video Nazi satire, this inflammatory gesture implying I was the inflammatory one and also leading to a wider perception I had a hand in the making of the video or know who made it. (My previous post here on this issue included a copy of the letter addressed to the two people to whom I’d sent this video, to which I received no reply, by the way).

    It seems there’s a lot of “projection” going on – to use shrink parlance for deflecting onto others one’s own actions – so I wonder about the motivations for using this terminology.

    That video was satire. Rollinson’s remarks are not. They are especially grotesque and offensive to me. For the last century at least, the main thread of my family history is one of pogroms and displacement, and my family died in the concentration camps. It seems to me that if one feels it necessary (why?!) to call people names, at least do it under your own name!

    • July 20, 2011 8:31 pm

      NEIL ROLLINSON says

      Eva, no that is wrong and over the top completely, and disingenuous of you and everyone else. You cant hide behind the smoke screen of ‘This was satire.’ You – or whoever posted this video was in effect calling certain people nazi’s. It’s not particularly elevating or clever is it. There could well be people in the organisations lampooned who might like yourself feel hugely upset by this. I merely took the tone and tenor of the original video and made a swipe in a likewise manner. Call it satire too if you wish. Why is one satire and the other not? If i upset you I apologise, we have always been great friends and had a good relationship in the past, and I wouldn’t like that to change. ( incidentally, f.y.i. I don’t know if the comment is still up on youtube, but I did sign it N Rollinson, at the bottom, because I did not want to hide behind an anonymous moniker – so much of this debate has been conducted by people not having the balls to own up to comments, and that is depressing )This is all getting very silly. I don’t agree with almost any of this stuff on here and I’ll be present on friday to put a logical case, in a balanced and inclusive way. This is what the EGM is for so lets just go there and argue our cases, and hopefully not end the night in brawl. Nx

      • Eva Salzman permalink
        July 20, 2011 10:35 pm

        Thanks Neil for your reply and apologies to all members for taking up more space with a matter better dealt with by email: once I’ve objected again to the implication that I had something to do with the video in question. Since I did not, the remark about hiding between a smoke screen makes no sense and my points and stance are therefore not disingenuous. Either you came to an unfounded conclusion yourself or were influenced from elsewhere which is worrying.

        “Over the top” describes and, indeed, defines satire, which I thought the video was and your remarks were not but I don’t understand about what I’m meant to be wrong.

        I only saw the video once (if I’d had a hand in it, I’d know better) but I recall several names were mentioned. The laws of narrative are such that the Hitler figure could NOT have been these people! We can agree to disagree what is and isn’t satire and continue this conversation elsewhere.

  45. July 16, 2011 12:02 pm

    It seems to me that the Board of Trustees has been acting like a Board of Directors. I do not know the legal view, but I had always thought they were different things and had different responsibilities and spheres of action (else why have different nomenclature?).

    It also seems to me that it is very significant as to whether the Board members decided entirely of their own accord to ‘split the kingdom’ so that the PS Director and PR Editor reported to them separately, or whether this was an idea put to them by someone else (especially if the someone else held either of those two posts). In the former case, one might say it would be a decision (good or bad) reached without pressure or lobbying; in the latter case, it could equally well be a decision reached wholly objectively, but there is also the potential for it to have been made under pressure.

  46. pissed off permalink
    July 15, 2011 5:36 pm

    Oh for fucks sake stop bitching about and to eachother – we dont gve a toss abouyt your petty grievances, but we do now understand how unproffesional you ALL are – and just to think – we relied on you to judge OUR work!

    Well thats not going to happen any more

    Good luck in your endevours – you may now cancel my membership and remove all of my details from your data bank.

    • Martin - admin permalink*
      July 15, 2011 8:17 pm

      Thanks for that – but I’m not sure that you get that this isn’t the official Poetry Society website. There’s a link to that on the About page, I think.

      We’re just a bunch of members who want to know what’s been going on with all those resignations at the top. Something ain’t right: like you, we’ve paid our dues, and we deserve to know.

      So if you’re pissed off with the organisation, don’t shout at us. Write to them – or better, come to the meeting.

  47. Anne Vinden permalink
    July 14, 2011 4:40 pm

    CHANGING THE DIRECTOR’S MANDATE

    I wanted to reply to Lydia Macpherson’s answer to my naive question in the ‘Mail’ section (under Kate’s email sent to us all today) but the facility doesn’t seem to be working. So I continue here. Thank you, Lydia. I’m still puzzled as to why the Board would have made this change – in their own terms: taking the Editor of Poetry Review under their own wing and away from the Director. This is just me wanting to get something straight – I hope I don’t sound as if I’m pushing a conspiracy theory!

  48. Eva Salzman permalink
    July 14, 2011 1:06 pm

    I’m not sure whether to post this here or in Board section…..

    It sure is a relief to have this information made public. Poetry Review depends entirely on Poetry Society for space, equipment, funds and wo/man power, for all of which the Director is responsible. This information should also guard against any strategic scapegoating of one individual, whatever one thinks of the editorship as a permanent position.

    The shocking figure for costs thus far is an additional reason for not wanting further legal wrangling but nevertheless I’m curious:

    Are Trustees liable for misappropriation of funds, for example those used under their auspices illegitimately, according to the constitution?

  49. Anne Marie permalink
    July 14, 2011 12:15 pm

    I need a proxy but cannot access the proxy link – it is blocked by my firm for some reason. I would be grateful for the contact details of anyone who is still happy to do this. I promise to get my proxy form to you and to the Poetry Society straight away!

    Many thanks

    Anne Marie Jackson

    • July 14, 2011 12:21 pm

      For Anne Marie and anyone else in her position, here’s the text of the proxy form:

      The Poetry Society
      22 Betterton Street
      London
      WC2H 9BX
      I,
      [name] ___________________________________________
      [address] ___________________________________________
      ___________________________________________
      ___________________________________________
      ___________________________________________
      ___________________________________________
      [Membership no.] ___________________________________________
      being a member of the above named Society, hereby appoint the member:
      [name of member] ___________________________________________
      as my proxy to vote in my name and on my behalf at the Extraordinary
      General Meeting to be held on Friday 22 July 2011, and at any adjournment
      thereof.
      Signed this ________ day of ______________ 2011
      [Signature] ___________________________________________

    • Lydia Macpherson permalink
      July 14, 2011 4:16 pm

      Anne Marie, I will be your proxy – email me lydia.macpherson@btinternet.com

  50. Eva Salzman permalink
    July 12, 2011 1:19 pm

    SATIRICAL VIDEO & SHENANIGANS

    Dear Members,

    It has been put around that I forwarded to Fiona Sampson directly a note and link to the satirical video now being discussed. I feel I should put on record the fact that I’ve no idea who made this and also make public below letter I’m now sending to the third parties to whom I DID send this link – 3 people in all – to protect myself and in the hope that such backroom politics and propaganda don’t handily distract from the important matters at hand.

    I’d been mulling over how to proceed and Kate Clanchy’s posting on precisely this matter prompts me to respond here and counter distressing falsehoods circling back to me via third parties.

    best regards,
    E

    Dear Colleagues and Friends,

    I’ve learned that an email and link to a satirical video that I’d sent to a few third parties was forwarded to Fiona Sampson, leading to a wider perception that I’d sent this to her myself, which I most certainly did not. The time-line shows I was en route to America when she received it. Since this video was circulating elsewhere it’s odd someone would forward a personal email in this incendiary way.

    Recently, I received a note from Fiona Sampson replying to an email I HAD sent her, in which she thanks me for writing her directly and expresses her appreciation of my positive characterization of my longstanding relationship with PR, where I’ve been published frequently including during her tenure.

    One is conscious of the small – and apparently ever more enclosed – literary world, in deciding to sign a requisition that demands answers to questions about the Poetry Society’s current lack of transparency, spate of resignations and policy changes, including queries about Poetry Review naturally. (While the requisition mentions no names, I’m greatly dismayed by the circumstances of the Director’s departure on the eve of her successfully obtaining a major Arts Council grant when so many other organisations have lost theirs.)

    This latest episode underscores the legitimacy of concerns about a climate of secrecy. Since I’d only sent the aforementioned email/link to 2 or 3 people it should be a simple matter to clarify things and correct any false impressions, hence this letter. During these times especially it’s important to do so.

    regards,
    E. Salzman

  51. Sandra permalink
    July 11, 2011 11:58 am

    The responce from the Poetry Society with regard to its members ligitamate
    requirement to have an EGM is wholly inadequate.

    It is not good enough to allocate 20 mins for a fulsome explanation of all these
    high level esignations.

    Surely Kate or others should announce an EGM giving a time and place it is your right you have had the petition,to insist they come and explain their past actions.

    all the very best

  52. Eva Salzman permalink
    July 10, 2011 10:16 pm

    Reading above comments, I’m very concerned about the whitewash this meeting could become from official dispatches, the working of which speaks volumes. I very much hope that members will vote in a a truly independent Chair and aren’t fobbed off patronisingly, as by the time the meeting’s over discussing these points it will be too late to really get to the bottom of things. I was on the Board for one year in 1996, at others’ request and admittedly found myself allergic to these and any meetings where even at the best of times, business and bureaucracy can defer indefinitely what often seems the most important matter to me. However, I’m heartened by the solidarity and strength of feeling expressed here and elsewhere.

  53. Sue Kindon permalink
    July 8, 2011 10:52 am

    “Thank you for your email. We genuinely hope that the meeting on July 22nd will be able to respond to member concerns and discuss recent events. We will be sending out an agenda next week and I hope you will see that we are attempting to listen to our members.”

    This is the reply I received from the Trustees. I assume it is the standard reply, as it does not address the points I raised. “Genuinely hoping” does not sound like an agenda item. “Attempting” to listen to members means that they have their fingers in their ears. You either listen or you don’t. “Our members” implies that The Trustees are The Poetry Society, and we are some sort of slight annoyance which will go away if given enough plums.

    • Jonathan Briggs permalink
      July 8, 2011 3:13 pm

      My point exactly – They are trying to avoid the issue by telling us not to worry, the grown-ups will sort it out. The want to avoid an EGM as it will FORCE them to listen to us. If they have only an General Meeting they will control the agenda, probably insist on foreknowledge of questions from the floor in order that they may prevent akward ones being asked by only calling on speakers they want to hear from, just like a Party Political Conference.

      This business has all the hallmarks of an internal power struggle and an attempt at empire building.

      One for the solicitors amongst the membership – Can an injunction be taken out to prevent them holding their meeting before an EGM?

      If this line is in italics, Tags work

  54. Jonathan Briggs permalink
    July 8, 2011 9:05 am

    I too have written to the board as follows:

    To the Board of Trustees

    The very few messages we are getting from the Poetry Society at this time of crisis are both complacent and patronising in the extreme. We are not naughty schoolchildren to be fobbed off with kind words, buttered parsnips, and the implication that this is business for grown-ups. Any organisation shedding officers at the rate the Poetry Society seems to be, is clearly in turmoil, yet you seem to think that we, who along with various publicly funded bodies, pay for its existence; and incidentally, your positions; should believe that all is well, and it is nothing for us to worry about, that you will sort it out on the quiet and tell us afterwards what you have done – This will not do.

    You have our petition, you know the feelings of the concerned membership, yet it appears that it is your earnest desire to carry on sailing towards the rocks as more and more of the crew jump ship. As a body you are bound by the Freedom of Information Act; you, as a body, have a duty of care towards the membership; and if a sufficient number of the membership are disquieted enough to call for an Extraordinary General Meeting it is your duty to listen to the call and respond. There are questions which must be answered by the Board or its representative; there are questions which any concerned member of the society attending an EGM feel duty bound to ask on behalf of the membership.

    The sudden departure of the Chief Financial Officer and several other Trustees is bound to start rumours, and where there is rumour there is malice and manipulation of the truth by those with an axe to grind, and those who make it their business to provide the whetstones with which to sharpen those axes.

    This business needs to be clarified with the utmost speed before things gets out of hand and the Poetry Society collapses, like Ozymandius, into the sand and is blown away by the winds of time.

    Yours, a concerned member,

    Jonathan Briggs.

  55. July 8, 2011 7:22 am

    If anyone needs a proxy for the meeting on 22nd July I am happy to be it…

    • Anne Marie permalink
      July 14, 2011 1:01 pm

      Frances, may I name you as my proxy? I can email and / or post the form to you – will do so asap if you are happy to represent me at the meeting.

      Kind regards

      Anne Marie Jackson

  56. July 7, 2011 10:41 am

    Until now, I’ve been following this closely and making the occasional ‘suggestion’ to Kate via email. Yesterday’s email from Laura, and the subsequent ‘Message from the Poetry Society’, was my tipping point.

    I have no personal problem with any of the Trustees. I enjoy Poetry Review. I have no issue whatsoever with Fiona Sampson or any of the other Trustees and I’m not interested in personal jousting matches. What worries me is the lack of communication. The real issues are not being addressed. Members are being talked down to, as though by an authority. We appear to be sailing in circles.

    I have pasted my letter to the Board of Trustees below. Feel free to reuse it (if you’re that desperate).

    ‘I am writing to express my disappointment at the way in which you are handling the current problems within the society and to emphasise my hope that we can move on from this. I am sorry for the harsh tone of some of this email – I value the work you do, but the ongoing problems are rather worrying.

    Your emails and updates, while pleasant, evade the issues we have brought to you and contain little substance. You repeatedly refer to your own General Meeting, despite the fact that we have requisitioned you to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting. You continue to push for your own agenda, albeit incorporating our ‘suggestions’, and ignore the very clear agenda that we have given you. You appear to be procrastinating.

    This has the effect of trivialising our requisition and of forcing members to consider further action. We all, surely, hope that this isn’t necessary. Surely we’re united in wanting the Poetry Society to be a strong force, a society we’re proud of, a society that represents poets and poetry in a relevant, contemporary, far-reaching way. Please, let’s build on this.

    I would like to leave you with this thought: the implications of these problems extend beyond the offices, the trustees and the members. In the words of Shelley, ‘Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world’. And if poets are no longer able to overcome internal political disputes, what hope is there for the rest of society?

    I am asking you to quickly change your approach to the current problems. I hope that you will do so today.’

  57. Victoria Cichy permalink
    July 7, 2011 8:16 am

    I’ve e-mailed the Board of Trustees today. I am just an ordinary member, living in rural Bedfordshire, no contacts amongst the great and good (or bad) so haven’t done so before because I didn’t think it would have any effect: but Laura Bamford’s patronising message yesterday is the final straw. If all of the signatories of the requisition did the same, maybe the Board of Trustees might realise it’s not just a load of signatures but real members with real concerns. I urge anyone reading this who hasn’t to do so: it only takes a few minutes!

    Just for information, this is what I’ve said:

    “I write as an ordinary member of the Poetry Society, not part of any faction or clique, who has viewed the growing crisis at the Society with concern. I am one of the signatories of the Requisition for an Extraordinary General Meeting, because I believe that it is essential that the Board of Trustees addresses my concerns, and that of many members, in a manner which will put a stop to the enormous damage which their lack of transparency has caused.
    “As a member, I find the few brief, bland and late statements which have been issued by the Board of Trustees completely unsatisfactory; but the patronising and wholly inadequate message from Laura Bamford issued yesterday in response to the members’ Requisition – not a suggestion – once again refuses to engage with members in any meaningful way. Far from being reassured that the Board “will, of course, do all we can to address your concerns at the General Meeting”, I am beginning to wonder what exactly has happened at the Poetry Society – particularly in view of yet another resignation – which makes the Board so afraid to act on a straightforward requisition, and one which would be at least cost to the Society, both financially and in terms of its reputation.
    “I urge you to call a halt to this damaging episode by acting on the Requisition and calling an EGM before/after or instead of the General Meeting: what exactly have you got to lose? “

  58. Meg Cox permalink
    July 6, 2011 5:30 pm

    One good thing for me about this whole kerfuffle has been that for the first time since I became a member of the PoSoc I feel I am a part of it, that I am one with other members, with other poets. It feels less them and us.
    I’ll see.

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