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The Mail

Here is an updated collection of the correspondence from Kate Clanchy and, on our behalf, between her and the Board.

Latest News:

Friday 22nd July 2011 – Two final posts, from The Board and from us. STILL no confirmation that a vote of confidence will take place. (I’m on the bus to London, so this is the final update.)

Thursday 21st July 2011 – A very brief reply from the Acting Chair.

Wednesday 20th July 2011 - Letter to Acting Chair regretting a lack of response from the Board.

Monday 18th July 2011: - Read our reply to Chair of the Board here on The Mail.

Confused by all the drama? Befuddled by rumour? Read Conversation with a Perplexed Poet on the FAQ page and all will become perfectly clear.

Latest on Proxies - if you STILL haven’t done so, you may arrange your proxy by e-mail, so long as you use the e-mail address the Poetry Society has on file from when you joined.

Thursday 14th July 2011: 1:00pm - Kate Clanchy explains exactly what the Board  has been up to behind closed doors at the Poetry Society. See below.

Friday 8th July 2011: 6:30pm – Click here to go directly to the announcement made this evening regarding the Extraordinary General Meeting to be held on the 22nd July.

47 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2011 9:43 am

    Dear Acting Chair,

    Thank you for your one paragraph email sent at 0.52 last night. I regret that this is the only reply I  have received to four formal letters on behalf of 507 members of the Society. I regret further that you have not answered our question about the vote of confidence.

    The Requisitionists meeting was called “to determine whether … the Board of Trustees has our continuing confidence … [by providing] an explanation of the practices, policies and changes in policy which led to these resignations, and to answer questions on this matter from the floor.”  This means a vote of confidence has to be called when the explanation has been provided and questions answered.  You have not provided for this in your agenda.

    I would like to remind you of  your  duty under charity law to act lawfully and of the Charity Commissioners’ power to remove you  from office “on the grounds of any … mismanagement in the administration of the charity for which he was responsible or to which he was privy, or which he by his conduct contributed to or facilitated” [Charities Act 1993, section 72]; and the meeting will  be observed by officials from ACE, and by journalists from our major newspapers.

    Yours sincerely,

    Kate Clanchy for Requisitionists

  2. July 22, 2011 9:40 am

    From: Laura Bamford
    Date: Fri, Jul 22, 2011 at 12:31 AM
    Subject: Sequence of meetings: your letter
    To: Kate Clanchy

    Dear Kate – regarding your requests to know whether the meeting is in response to the resolution or called by the Trustees:  we circulated notice of the general meeting on 30th June, and the requisition was brought on 5th July. On the basis that the requisitionists requested that the meeting be held on the same date as the original meeting, we are happy for the requisitioned meeting to be held in place of the original meeting and we have prepared the agenda accordingly
     
    kind regards laura

  3. Eva Salzman permalink
    July 21, 2011 9:09 pm

    Sorry if I’ve got this wrong, but I was referring to a reference in letter from Bamford which Peter Daniels also commented upon. I didn’t go back to check Bamford’s note so perhaps I got this wrong….

  4. Eva Salzman permalink
    July 21, 2011 8:35 pm

    One is supposed to address “external comments” while so many queries about verifiable things haven’t even been addressed?! I confess to a weakness for gossip but this meeting isn’t about that. A vague and personal allegation like this just seems diversionary, at best, especially when the same letter in which this appears lacks a reply to the important question about the very nature of the forthcoming meeting.

    • Martin - admin permalink*
      July 21, 2011 9:07 pm

      Dear Eva,

      I’m not sure what ‘external comments’, ‘vague and personal allegation’ and gossip you’re referring to. Let me know and I’ll try to give you an answer!

      Martin

    • July 21, 2011 9:16 pm

      Oh, sorry – I see what you were referring to: LB’s suggestion that actions were taken in response to rumour and pressure from undisclosed sources… Yes, very strange!

  5. Martin - admin permalink*
    July 21, 2011 10:21 am

    Perhaps the final exchange of letters between us and the Board…

    Dear Laura,

    Thank you for the highlighted notes. I’m very sorry you didn’t see fit to reply to the rest of the letter. You still have not clarified whether the meeting tomorrow is the one called for in the Requisition. You still have not told us whether a vote will be scheduled. These are matters of great importance to the members.

    With the regard to the highlighted notes:

    1 The fact that the Editor of Poetry Review was given a permanent post in 2008 was not reported to members, though it should have been. Many members are now incredulous and shocked to hear of this change. As Chair of the Board, you should have been aware of these facts, particularly as the Board prepared to make another change to the Editor’s contract.

    2 We are aware that the April 2011 change to the Editor’s contract was introduced as a ‘three month trial’. We consider, however, that because of the previous contractual change, the new alteration is so major that it should have been discussed with members before even a trial took place. We are also concerned that no proper arrangements were in place for the ending of such a ‘trial’. When the Director’s authority has been removed from a member of staff, the Director is diminished. It is very hard indeed to see how the Director’s authority could have been re-imposed, should the trial have failed to be satisfactory.

    We still hope you might reply to our many letters.

    Yours,

    Kate Clanchy

    _________________________
    From the Acting Chair

    Kate – thank you for your email below – there are a couple of things that I just wanted to make sure you were aware of. I would hate Friday to consumed in providing detail or updating things that we could have done before-hand, hence this note. Pls see below

    kind regards laura
    _________________________
    From: Kate Clanchy

    Sent: Monday, July 18, 2011 10:59 AM

    To: Laura Bamford ; boardoftrustees.society@gmail.com

    Subject: from Requisitionists

    Dear Acting Chair,

    I am writing in the hope that this letter, like the one I sent on Friday, will be sent on to all members in the cause of transparency and openness. All our documents are on:

    http://ThePoetrySocietyUK.WordPress.Com

    We object to your statement that we have placed private and personal details on social media. We have not done so. We have written that the post of Editor of Poetry Review has been made permanent. That is a fact about the structure of the Poetry Society and the character of the magazine which should have been reported to members:

    KATE – the position of Editor started in 2005 on sequential fixed term Contracts. 11 April 2008, in response to changes in employment law, it was necessary to confirm to a permanent contract. The letter was signed by Judith Palmer as Director and presumably the Chair and Director would have brought this to the attention of Members at that time. This Board has done nothing to change things in this regard lb

    just as it was reported to members some years ago when the post was on a three-year contract; and just as the contractual arrangements of, for example, Poetry Ireland is publically known. We have written that the Board wished to change the line of reporting so that the Editor no longer reported to the Director of the Society. Again, that is a fact about a change in the structure in the Poetry Society which should have been discussed with members at an AGM.

    KATE – the proposal to change the reporting line of the Editor of Poetry Review to the Trustess, was and is a temporary change, for 3months ending in August. This is not a permanent change, nor a change in structure. It was specifically introduced in order that the Trustees could respond to a working relationship that had in itself become the subject of external comment which was not positive for the Society or its Members lb

    It belongs to members and in the public domain.

    KATE – you are correct, the Poetry Society belongs to its Members and none of the Trustees are working under any other belief lb

    We do not accept that it would have been impossible to elect a Chair from the floor of the meeting. All that is required, as we have already explained, is for the Trustees to agree to this. Nor do we accept that we would have been unable to find an appropriate, respected person: the poetry community is neither so divided nor as impoverished as you seem anxious to paint it. We regard the use of a facilitator therefore as a further waste of members’ funds.

    We remind you that we expect, by tomorrow Tuesday the 19th of July, confirmation that, as you obliged by our Requisition, you will either place a vote of confidence on the Agenda, or allow one to be raised from the floor.

    Yours sincerely,

    Kate Clanchy for Requisitionists

    • July 21, 2011 6:47 pm

      11 April 2008 must be an error – Judith Palmer wasn’t appointed as director until late in 2008. Laura Bamford probably means 11 April 2009, if she’s got the day and month right.

      Am I correct that this is the first public mention by the Board of any change in the working arrangements? It’s certainly the first I’ve heard of anything “temporary”. The “external comment” sounds interesting – from where?

    • Martin permalink*
      July 21, 2011 7:38 pm

      What’s a Trustess? I think we should be told.

  6. Martin - admin permalink*
    July 20, 2011 11:59 am

    Letter to Acting Chair of the Board from Kate Clanchy

    From: Kate Clanchy
    Date: Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 12:03 PM
    Subject: meeting of 22nd
    To: Laura Bamford boardoftrustees.society@gmail.com

    Dear Acting Chair,

    We are very disappointed that you have chosen to ignore our question of 11th July, which was repeated on 13th and 15th July as to whether the meeting of the 22nd July is or is not the one called for in our Requisition of 5th July, and as to whether, if it is, a vote of confidence will be called as the Requisition requires. We still hope you might answer it.

    If you choose not to, please note that the question will be repeated immediately after your opening statement at the meeting of July 22nd, and that we will call upon you to allow a vote of no confidence at the members’ discretion. Should you refuse, please note that you will be acting ultra vires and contrary to the obligation of probity required of all trustees by the Charity Commission. The Charity Commission will accordingly immediately be notified. Please also note that the Arts Council of England will be sending observers to the meeting. 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.

    We are confident that ACE will consider, as we do, that, probity is part of good governance, and that ignoring a Requisition from 10% of the membership is poor management and constitutes a reputational risk.

    Yours sincerely

    Kate Clanchy for Requisitionists

  7. Joan Hewitt permalink
    July 19, 2011 11:08 am

    Dear Kate Clanchy,
    Thank you for doing this on members’ behalf , including mine, while I was lolling about in Maine. Respect.

  8. Martin - admin permalink*
    July 18, 2011 10:44 am

    Reply to Laura Bamford’s e-mail to all members:

    From: Kate Clanchy
    Date: Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 10:59 AM
    Subject: from Requisitionists
    To: Laura Bamford, boardoftrustees.society@gmail.com

    Dear Acting Chair,

    I am writing in the hope that this letter, like the one I sent on Friday, will be sent on to all members in the cause of transparency and openness. All our documents are on:

    http://ThePoetrySocietyUK.WordPress.Com

    We object to your statement that we have placed private and personal details on social media. We have not done so. We have written that the post of Editor of Poetry Review has been made permanent. That is a fact about the structure of the Poetry Society and the character of the magazine which should have been reported to members: just as it was reported to members some years ago when the post was on a three-year contract; and just as the contractual arrangements of, for example, Poetry Ireland is publically known. We have written that the Board wished to change the line of reporting so that the Editor no longer reported to the Director of the Society. Again, that is a fact about a change in the structure in the Poetry Society which should have been discussed with members at an AGM. It belongs to members and in the public domain.

    We do not accept that it would have been impossible to elect a Chair from the floor of the meeting. All that is required, as we have already explained, is for the Trustees to agree to this. Nor do we accept that we would have been unable to find an appropriate, respected person: the poetry community is neither so divided nor as impoverished as you seem anxious to paint it. We regard the use of a facilitator therefore as a further waste of members’ funds.

    We remind you that we expect, by tomorrow Tuesday the 19th of July, confirmation that, as you are obliged by our Requisition, you will either place a vote of confidence on the Agenda, or allow one to be raised from the floor.

    Yours sincerely,

    Kate Clanchy for Requisitionists

  9. July 15, 2011 5:21 pm

    Message from Laura Bamforth, Acting Chair of the Board of Trustees, to all Poetry Society members:

    Click here.

  10. Martin - website adminstrator permalink*
    July 15, 2011 2:41 pm

    From Kate Clanchy to members:

    Yesterday evening, I got a letter from Laura Bamford, Acting Chair, in reply to Monday’s letter. Unfortunately, it referred to the wrong document, so I’ve had to ask for another version. Both letters are on the website, under Mail.

    Post your Proxy-slip now!! They have to arrive at PoSoc by Wednesday 2pm.

    Go to the Proxies tab above for all you need to know about being represented at the meeting.

    If you are going to the meeting, you’ll need your membership card. Dig it out, or call Paul McGrane at PoSoc if you can’t find it.

    I have composed another FAQ.

    The first question really is very frequently asked:

    1) It’s all about Poetry Review isn’t it?

    No. In no update, in no letter, in no email, in no posting, neither on our website nor or discussion group, have we ever mentioned the quality of Poetry Review or even the name of its editor -

    2) It’s all because you can’t get your poems in, isn’t it?

    No. It’s because Poetry Review isn’t an issue for our campaign. Our questions are for the Board.

    3) Did you get a lot of rejection slips?

    Lots of requisitionists write for Poetry Review, all of us read it, some of us are major fans. And two of us are Poets Laureate –

    4) But, in yesterday’s update, you said it was all about Poetry Review –

    I most certainly did not. I said, the Director was impelled to resign when her mandate was suddenly changed so that the Editor reported to the Board, not the Director. It wasn’t just that this meant a major structural change, it was that the change was imposed without consultation with staff, Director, Arts Council , or members. Us.

    5) Why didn’t they consult, then?

    A good question for the meeting.

    6) Bet they won’t answer it. Bet it’s all embargoed, legal, personal stuff..

    Actually, all they have to do is confirm the change was made without consultation. We aren’t looking to punish anyone, you know. All the trustees are good people doing this in their own time. We just want them to acknowledge a mistake -

    7) Maybe it’s all down to the Director – maybe she sued them!

    The Director has confirmed that she has taken no legal action.

    8 ) What did they spend £26k on lawyers for, then? Was it really that much?

    £26k and rising as we speak. Why is a Mystery and an Enigma reminiscent of the Sphinx.

    9) Will you squeeze it out of them at the meeting?

    Answer as six above.

    10) This is all about money isn’t it?

    And Governance. And Management. And actually, I’m getting pretty interested in the Constitution..

    11) I’m not. I was hoping for something a bit juicier, frankly. A bit more personal. Don’t think I’ll bother with that meeting -

    No! You have to go to the meeting. We’re going to bring the Poetry Society back from the brink!

    12) You can’t do that – the Arts Council will never give us the money now –

    Yes we can. At the meeting, we can ask the Board to acknowledge their mistake, and step down. Some of them may step down in advance. Then we can appoint an interim Board to take us through to the AGM -

    13) Ah hah! A Putsch! I knew it. You want to run it yourself!

    No. Kate Clanchy, for one, will not be on any Board, ever. But we can find enough good people and existing Trustees to take care of the PoSoc from July to November. That Board can do what this one can’t: go back to the end of April, when the grant was given, and start from there. ACE had faith in The Poetry Society then, so if we start afresh from that point, with a Board the members trust, the grant can still be paid. Then we can have the best AGM ever, because so many people have become freshly enthused via the requisition process, and get a new Board willing to change the constitution to make sure this can’t happen again. Then we can have a better, stronger, more united Poetry Society. We really can.

    14) IF I go to the meeting…

    Yes. Or get a proxy.

    Click on Proxies, for all you need to know about getting represented.

    If you are going to the meeting, you’ll need your membership card. Dig it out, or call Paul McGrane at PoSoc if you can’t find it.

    We’ll meet in Lincoln’s Inn Fields before the meeting for a picnic, at the sign of the Red Wheelbarrow.

    Kate

  11. Martin - website adminstrator permalink*
    July 15, 2011 11:24 am

    Letter from Kate Clanchy to the Acting Chair of the Board

    Dear Acting Chair,

    Thank you for letter of Thursday 14th of July, which I assume was in reply to my letter of Monday 11th July, and follow-up request of Wednesday 13th July. Both these letters requested confirmation that the meeting of the 22nd July was the meeting requested in the Requisition of Tuesday the 5th of July.

    Unfortunately, your reply does not give me the clarification I asked for because your letter does not refer to the requisition of Tuesday the 5th of July, but to my open letter of Friday the 1st of July. The final Requisition differed in content from the draft in the open letter, and the Requisition has besides legal and constitutional status, which the letter did not. I must ask you, therefore, to review the Requisition of 5th July and my letter of Monday 11th July, and to write a fresh reply.

    As you do so, I would ask you note that our Requisition contains an agenda and a vote. The purpose of the meeting, stated in the Requisition, is to examine whether the Board has ‘the continuing confidence’ of the members. We therefore ask you to confirm that a motion of confidence will appear on a revised agenda or will otherwise be taken when proposed from the floor after the meeting has received information and answers to questions. Please let me have this confirmation no later than Tuesday 26 July.

    We are still considering what questions might be asked and will write to you again about this.

    Yours sincerely,

    Kate Clanchy for Requisitionists

  12. Site administrator - Martin permalink*
    July 14, 2011 12:10 pm

    14th July, 1:00pm. Message to Requisitioners from Kate Clanchy

    When I started this movement to find out what was happening in our Poetry Society, it was just me and a new gmail account. I had no special contacts or information: I just thought I had the right to know. Since then, we have gathered 450 people, a dedicated team of administrators, some astonishing advisers, and a website: an amazing achievement. I think we were able to do all this because we had a simple and honourable aim: to find out the truth by getting a meeting.

    Well, now we have a meeting, of sorts, but I don’t think it is going to give us our answers. I cannot get the Acting Chair to answer my letters or confirm that the meeting is our meeting and not the Board’s. The legal fudge issued last Friday, which published our requisition alongside the agenda from the Board’s meeting is, I think, the fudge the Board will stick with. This can only result in either a bland meeting in which we are told nothing, or a short, ugly meeting in which we repeatedly insist on votes of no confidence.

    I don’t think that is what we gathered together for. I’ve therefore decided to pass on the following information, passed to me as a matter of conscience by a very concerned and responsible insider and Poetry Society member, one willing to identify him/herself at the meeting. We had hoped to present this information at the meeting: now, we feel obliged to give it to you beforehand. The insider is not, I would like emphasise, the former Director Judith Palmer, who, when I asked her, would tell me only that she had not, yet, taken any legal action against the Poetry Society. I have, however, verified all this information. It is all documented.

    In April, 2011, the Board of Trustees met confidentially – that is, without the Director or the Arts Council. In these meetings, they decided to change the Director’s mandate so the Editor of Poetry Review no longer reported to the Director, but to the Board. (As background: in 2009, in order to comply with European Law, the Editor had been given a permanent post with the Poetry Society. The Board considered this a personal, personnel, issue and did not notify the AGM.)

    The Director was informed of her new mandate immediately after ACE granted extended monies to the Society on the basis of a plan authored by the Director. The Director felt impelled to resign by the Board’s decision, because it was made without any discussion, without any consideration of the operational implications, against the legal requirement to consult with all the staff affected, and without the required consultation with the Arts Council or AGM. The Board decided against a handover period, and immediately cut off her email and kept her from the building.

    Throughout this period the Board have not used the Society’s existing HR indemnity policy, but instead have had recourse to expensive lawyers. The legal bill has already topped £26k – despite the lack of legal action by the Director – and may well go much higher. This may seriously imperil / destroy the Society’s reserves of cash built up over 100 years. The Arts Council Grant will only be given if ACE is confident in the governance of the Poetry Society. ACE gave the grant because of its confidence in the Director and her plan. The Society is currently being run by the Board and an Interim Director in for two days a week. The Director may have a case for constructive dismissal, which could cost another £50k. The Poetry Society may therefore find itself with no reserves and no grant, and could therefore shortly be wound up.

    I don’t believe that a Board which has behaved like this can have our trust, and I think we have to say so and vote so at the meeting. But I hope, now that at least some of the information is in the public domain, that we will also be able to do positive things too, such as vote in a responsible temporary Board to carry us through to considered, proper elections at the AGM. I hope we can also vote for a new constitution, one that will prevent any Board, in the future, from behaving like this one.

    If we are to do this, we need to turn out, or if we can’t turn out, to get a proxy. Please go to the website, and fill the forms, under Proxies.

    http://thepoetrysocietyuk.wordpress.com

    You need to post by Saturday, preferably, Tuesday at the very latest. If you are going to the meeting, you’ll need your membership card. Dig it out, or call Paul McGrane. Please. This really could be our last chance to vote at a Poetry Society meeting.

    Kate

    • Anne Vinden permalink
      July 14, 2011 12:59 pm

      Naive question: Is this about controlling who does, or does not, get published in Poetry Review? A kind of hi-jack? I hope the background will be brought out at the Meeting.

      • Lydia Macpherson permalink
        July 14, 2011 3:22 pm

        No, it’s about appalling mismanagement, dreadful public relations and a complete lack of respect for Poetry Society members. Poetry Review shouldn’t come into it, unless it too has been badly managed.

    • Eva Salzman permalink
      July 15, 2011 1:16 pm

      Pardon, for duplicate message but now that Reply works for me here, will put following remarks and query in right section:

      Poetry Review depends entirely on Poetry Society for space, equipment, funds and wo/man power, for all of which the Director is responsible so clearly this cannot work. I don’t think one can say for sure what the thinking is behind this decision but it sure seems like shooting yourself in the foot with Arts Council funds pending.

      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?

      • Penelope Shuttle permalink
        July 16, 2011 11:53 am

        That question about the appropriate (or otherwise) use of funds by the Trustees in connection with legal costs is one that many of the membership, including myself, will be asking.

        Penelope

  13. Martin Alexander - site administrator permalink*
    July 13, 2011 1:58 pm

    From Kate Clanchy to Acting Chair of the Board of Trustees:

    Dear Acting Chair,

    We regret that we have not yet received a reply to our letter appended below, particularly because we are becoming very anxious that our membership fees are being used to pay lawyers to read our letters to you, and advise against us. We are the members of the society, drawn together in exceptional numbers, and it is your duty, as trustees, to listen to us, not to waste resources on shutting us out.

    We are very anxious to have a prompt confirmation that the meeting of the 22nd July is the meeting we called for in our requisition. That being the case, we would like you note that the agenda will also be as called for in the requisition, and will conclude with a vote of confidence. We would like you to confirm that the Trustees will step aside for an independent chair.

    We will require accounts of monies spent April – July, in the form of documentation or a statement from your financial officer. In order to enable an orderly meeting, we will also send you by the end of the week a list of questions which we will wish you to answer.

    Yours sincerely,

    Kate Clanchy for requistionists

    • Site administrator - Martin permalink*
      July 14, 2011 4:57 pm

      14th July 2011 – Reply from Laura Bamford to Kate Clanchy’s letters of Monday 11th (below ) and Wednesday 13th July (above)

      Dear Kate

      Please accept our apologies for not replying sooner.

      First, regarding your question about using membership fees to pay lawyers to advise the Trustees about the General Meeting, the requisition and your letters to the Board. I want to assure you that we have not consulted lawyers on any of these matters. Neither have we any intention of shutting members out, who are at the heart of the Poetry Society. The whole point of the General meeting on 22 July is for all members to meet together, for the benefit of the Poetry Society.

      The meeting of 22 July was called by the Trustees to outline future strategy and to hear members concerns. As outlined in the guidelines sent to all members on Friday with the agenda for the EGM, a General Meeting and an EGM are the same thing as stated in our M&A. The Board had received indications from members that an EGM was to be requisitioned and therefore called such a meeting in accordance with this anticipated request. Subsequently a notice was delivered by the Requisitionists asking for a meeting ‘to provide an explanation, in the transparent and accountable manner the members expect of its elected representatives, of the events leading to these resignations; an independently chaired forum for the statements of members and for the questions; and a detailed account of how the Board will continue the business of the Society in accordance with its stated aims and purposes’

      I hope you will agree that the Agenda subsequently circulated will enable the people present at the GM to discuss all these points. The Trustees have taken on board your requisition and will answer it as fully as we able. We are as anxious as you for transparency and openness to prevail. The Trustees are pleased to have the opportunity to address some of the unfortunate headlines raised by the press and on social network sites

      Independent Chair: The Articles do not permit the appointment of a Chair who is not a Trustee or member of the Poetry Society. You are right to say that it is possible for the Chair to be elected by the members from among their number if neither the Chair of Trustees nor the Trustees wish to officiate. However, the requisition requests an independent Chair is elected from the floor; given the understandable strength of feeling about recent events, I would respectfully suggest that it would be impossible to guarantee that much-needed independence. The discussion – and the Trustees want a full and frank discussion as much as you do – and Q&As should be led by a completely independent, certified professional facilitator, who works to the Code of Ethics of the International Association of Facilitators and who will ensure that all members’ views are heard and paid attention to.

      In respect of Monies: any details on monies spent will be prepared by our financial officer and will of course be in line with our policies

      List of questions: your earlier note says that you will be sending over a list of questions ‘by the end of the week’. Do let us have the questions by Friday midday if that is possible, in order that we may be prepared for them.

      kind regards

      Laura Bamford, Acting Chair

      ___________________________________________

      ———- Forwarded message ———-
      From: Kate Clanchy
      Date: Mon, Jul 11, 2011 at 11:00 AM
      Subject: Re: 22July meeting: from requisitionists
      To: Laura Bamford

      Dear Acting Chair,

      Thank you for your email of 8th July.

      Please will you confirm that the meeting to which you refer is the meeting called by the Requisitionists and is taking precedence over the meeting previously called by the Board of Trustees? This is not clear from the language of your letter, in which you refer to ‘our meeting’ and ‘our agenda’. If the meeting is indeed the requisitionists’, then we will regard the agenda and timings suggested as irrelevant: the EGM will address the question in the Requisition, which is continuing confidence in the Board.

      On the question of the Chair, I would like to remind you first of all that a Chair – not a facilitator – in charge of the whole meeting – not just questions – is a requirement of the Requisition. It is not a suggestion. Article 38 of the Articles and Memoranda of the Poetry Society states: “If no Trustee is willing to act as Chair the members present and entitled to vote shall choose one of their number to be Chair.” All that it is required, then for an independent Chair to be elected from the floor is for the Trustees to stand aside and allow this to be so. As a requisition has been served upon the Trustees which is adamant on this point, it is clearly incumbent on the Trustees to do so. I look forward, therefore, to your confirmation that the Trustees will indeed stand aside at the meeting and allow an independent Chair to be elected.

      We look forward to your full and transparent statement concerning the recent resignations and would prefer documents outlining your statement to be circulated in advance of the meeting. We would also like accounts of monies spent in the months since April to be presented to the meeting, either in a document circulated prior to the meeting, or in a statement made to the floor by your financial officer.

      Yours sincerely,

      Kate Clanchy on behalf of the Requisitionists.

  14. Martin Alexander - site administrator permalink*
    July 13, 2011 9:45 am

    13th July 2011 – Gwyneth Lewis resigns as Vice President of the Poetry Society

    Gwyneth Lewis resigned as a Vice President of the Poetry Society on Tuesday 12 July, 2011. She said: “I have felt very honoured to serve as a Vice President of the Poetry Society but, because of the way in which the role of the Vice Presidents is now being perceived as identical with that of the Board of Trustees, rather than purely honorary, I feel compelled to resign with immediate effect.”

  15. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 5:42 pm

    8th July 2011 – from the Board of Trustees: Extraordinary General Meeting

    Dear Poetry Society member,

    Please see below a message from Laura Bamford, Acting Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Poetry Society, including the agenda for the meeting on 22 July and Extraordinary General Meeting guidelines.

    The Board of Trustees of the Poetry Society can be contacted via email: boardoftrustees.society@gmail.com

    Further Poetry Society news can be found in the Media Room page of our website.
    Agenda
    The Poetry Society
    Company Number 00190736

    Extraordinary General Meeting

    To be held at on Friday 22nd July 2011 at 2.00pm in Lecture Theatre 1, The Royal College of Surgeons, 35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PE

    1. Welcome from the Chair (2.00pm)
    2. Apologies for absence (2.05pm)
    3. Opening response from the Chair to the requisition delivered to the Board and explanation about recent events at the Poetry Society (2.10pm)
    4. Questions from members (2.30pm)
    5. Outline and presentation of current and future strategy of The Poetry Society, ways of working more closely with and getting feedback from members (3.35pm)
    6. Questions from members (4.00pm)
    7. AOB (4.30pm)

    For information – text of requisition delivered to the Board of Trustees of The Poetry Society:

    We, the undersigned, constituting as we believe ten percent of the members of The Poetry Society, having learned of the resignation of the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the Director, the Finance Manager and the President of the Society, and in order to determine whether, in these extraordinary circumstances, the Board of Trustees has our continuing confidence, require the Board to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting, with a Chair elected by that meeting, to provide an explanation of the practices, policies and changes in policy which led to these resignations, and to answer questions on this matter from the floor. In order to avoid unreasonable expense to the Society, we require the Extraordinary General Meeting to be held before or instead of the General Meeting called by the Society at 2pm on 22 July 2011.
    EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL MEETING GUIDELINES

    Along with the agenda for the Extraordinary General Meeting, we include these brief guidelines on the General meeting, including proxy voting which we hope you will find helpful. These guidelines are taken from the Society’s Memorandum and Articles of Association which are posted on the Poetry Society’s website

    Why are we now calling this an Extraordinary General Meeting?

    The Memorandum and Articles of Association refer to General Meetings; we are advised that these are in fact one and the same thing.

    Who is entitled to attend the Extraordinary General Meeting?

    All fully paid up members, including Honorary Members, Patrons and Vice Presidents, can attend and speak at the Extraordinary General Meeting. Membership is not transferable.

    There are three wheelchair spaces available in the Lecture Hall; if you need a wheelchair space, please let Paul McGrane know – membership@poetrysociety.org.uk or by phoning 020 7420 9880.

    Who can chair the meeting?

    The Chair of the Board of Trustees should chair the meeting, as outlined in Article 38 of the Memorandum.

    The requisition asked the Board to appoint an independent Chair. As we have already said in a message to all members, the Memorandum and Articles of Association do not allow for this but we do believe it will be helpful to have an independent facilitator to take members’ questions during the meeting.

    Who can ask questions at the meeting?

    All fully-paid up members, Honorary Members, Patrons and Vice Presidents, can ask questions at the meeting. We intend that the meeting’s facilitator will take on this part of the meeting. Roving microphones will be available.

    Votes

    If a vote is taken at the meeting, every fully-paid up member has a vote and it is done by a show of hands.

    Either the Chair or at least two members present in person or by proxy can call for a poll if they feel it preferable to a show of hands, in which case voting cards will be available.

    Proxy votes

    If you can’t attend the meeting, you can appoint the Chair or a fully-paid up member to act as your proxy but you do have to complete the proxy form below:

    The Poetry Society
    22 Betterton Street
    London WC2H 9BX

    I/We, [NAME] of [ADDRESS] being a member/members of the above named Society, hereby appoint the Chair/member [NAME] as my/our proxy to vote in my/our name[s] and on my/our behalf at the General Meeting of the Society to be held on 22 July 2011 and at any adjournment thereof.

    Signed this day of 2011

    The proxy form must arrive at The Poetry Society’s office at least 48 hours before the meeting, i.e. by 2.00pm on Wednesday 20 July 2011. It can be posted to the address above or emailed to membership@poetrysociety.org.uk

    The Trustees are aware of the very deep feelings all Members have towards this, their Poetry Society. We too are Members and we share many of your concerns, which is why we called this General Meeting: to answer questions and to outline our very exciting future. It is our intention to be as open, as transparent as possible and to answer as many of your questions as possible. We realise there is a measure of grave frustration among many of you due to the silence of Trustees on recent events. As I am sure many of you will realise, there are some constraints on what we can say – these being dictated by legal process amongst other things.

    We very much look forward to meeting you on 22nd July and we very much hope this will be the first of many occasions when we can share ideas, hear updates and to underline and enhance the value of the Poetry Society. Yours sincerely Laura Bamford Acting Chair on behalf of Trustees and Members of the Poetry Society

    With best wishes,

    Laura Bamford
    Acting Chair on behalf of Trustees of the Poetry Society

  16. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 11:29 am

    27th June 2011 – from the Board of Trustees to all members

    Dear Poetry Society member,

    The Board of Trustees of the Poetry Society would like to make the following statement:
    “Judith Palmer resigned as Director of the Poetry Society on 20 May 2011. The Board accepted her resignation with regret. Judith’s resignation and her reasons for resigning have since been the focus of some press attention and speculation. In light of ongoing discussions with Judith, the Board deems it inappropriate to comment on Judith’s reasons for resigning.

    The Board has responded to all emails sent to their email address as stated on the Poetry Society website boardoftrustees.society@gmail.com and will continue to do so. We have also been actively recruiting an interim manager (we hope to announce an appointment early this week), meeting regularly with Arts Council England, and working hard with staff and colleagues at the Poetry Society to support both them and the Society’s work going forward. The Poetry Society will be launching the new edition of Poetry Review on Thursday, SLAMbassadors UK is hosting their highly-successful workshops around the country and staff continue to receive many entries for both the National Poetry Competition and the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award.

    We acknowledge that it has been a difficult time for the Poetry Society but the trustees are dedicated to delivering the full potential of the Society over the coming months. We are grateful for your ongoing support for the Society.”

  17. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 11:25 am

    29th June 2011 – from Kate Clanchy: Tuesday Update

    For the family of poets,the Poetry Society should be our dining table, where we meet and share or even disagree, but with openness and transparency.

    Imtiaz Dharker

    I think anything that is secret suggests that there is deceit. If that’s not the case, why not openly declare the reasons for the resignations?

    Vicki Feaver

    I am sad to see the hard work of the Poetry Society to honour its national mission suddenly put at risk; the secrecy which surrounds the unexplained changes at the top needs to be set aside so that Society members and the funding bodies can see what has happened and why, and the Society, answerable again to its constituents, return to the apparently successful route it was on.

    Michael Schmidt

    People keep asking me ‘What’s going on at the Poetry Society’ and I want to be able to answer them.

    Gillian Clarke

    Do remind people that they can join the Poetry Society for just £18

    Deryn Rees Jones
    ____________________________

    Hello, Requisitioners,

    We are on 278 signatures!

    Which sounds as if we are nearly there. But actually, it means we have to persuade sixty-two more people to read about the issue, think about it, and care enough to send me an email. That’s five more than attended my wedding. It’s a lot. So please don’t stop emailing, posting on blogs, messaging, Facebooking and even talking to people. A last big push. Please stress that this is a well-organised affair and that we are nearly there, because there have been some strange mutterings to the contrary from the murky depths of the Poetry Pond. It would be so exciting to be able to put the Requisition together on Friday. If we can keep the signatures coming in at the current rate, we really could be doing that.

    Don’t be a fence-sitter: be a requisitioner! ( all better rhymes gratefully received)

    Nitty-Gritty:

    Before we send the Requisition on, we will send each one of you an email for you to confirm, containing the Requisition in its final, lawyer-checked form, your address and your PoSoc number. In order to be able to do this, we are making a spreadsheet of all these details, and Samantha Wynne Rhydderch and Lydia MacPherson are helping me do this( I am so grateful) Samantha and Lydia are both impeccably honourable people who will do nothing with your details except input them. The spreadsheet will be disposed of after the EGM.

    The Requisition

    The members of the Poetry Society, having learnt of the resignation of the Director, the Finance Manager and the President of the Society, and in order to determine whether the Board of Trustees has their continuing confidence, require the Board to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting to provide an explanation, in the transparent and accountable manner the members expect of its elected representatives, of the events leading to these resignations; and of how the Board proposes to continue the business of the Society in accordance with its stated aims and purposes.

    This is the current wording but it is currently being checked by a lawyer, and may yet change again. I would welcome any comments from any of you.

    For example, one requisitoner writes: Strictly speaking, nouns do not need any upper case letters when used generically. [If King John resigned, who would be king? The title of the society is The Poetry Society.] However, I recognise that it is fairly common practice in this sort of formal situation to hype up titles and terms with upper case letters even when the nouns are being used generically.

    And some of you may care to add your views. I am happy to say, though, that the same person adds’ I would not let the extraneous capital letters prevent me from signing the petition’

    She was also kind enough to correct my typos. Quite right: my typing is terrible and I apologise to all those who have had to put up with my errors. And thank you, very much, for all your messages of support. If I don’t respond, it’s because another signature has come in. When all this is over, we can start a Poets Wild Swimming Group.

    Kate
    ___________________

    Requistioners Views no 3, from Jane Holland, poet and blogger extraordinaire

    My reason for requiring an EGM to be called is the continuing lack of transparency shown by the Board of the Poetry Society in their dealings with society business and the membership. Something has clearly occurred to trigger the recent resignations, since otherwise we would have been reassured that they were unrelated. But what? Those who have resigned appear unwilling or unable to comment. The Trustees have released statements which merely restate the current situation without even the most cursory attempt to explain it. Unless an EGM is pressed for, we may never uncover the truth.

    Yesterday’s story in the Guardian, while shedding some new light on the crisis, has left me more confused. The only information we are being given, in a reluctant and irregular dripfeed, appears contradictory, misleading, and even irrelevant to the situation in hand. Rumours circulate and are denied. Others take their place, but are unconfirmed by the principal players or make no sense.

    Meanwhile we, the members of the Poetry Society, have nothing to go on but these rumours. Apparently we are not equipped to deal with the truth, being withheld from us by the Trustees as though we were children. I trust that an EGM will not only reveal the truth behind these resignations, but remind the Board of Trustees that they are not the Poetry Society. We, the general membership, are the Poetry Society, which they serve as temporary administrators.

    Jane Holland

  18. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 11:22 am

    29th June, 2011 – from the Poetry Society to all members

    Dear Poetry Society member,

    The Trustees of the Poetry Society are pleased to announce the appointment of Amanda Smethurst as Interim Director of the Society. Amanda, who met Poetry Society staff last week, will start her new role on Tuesday 5th July. Amanda, a Fellow on the Clore Leadership Programme, has almost twenty years’ experience of working in the arts sector. She was Director of Art Link Exchange for six years, before moving to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea where she spent six years as Arts Service Manager. She was then appointed as Director, London, of Arts Council England, a post she held until March 2010. Since then, she has worked as a freelance consultant specialising in arts leadership and coaching.

    Peter Carpenter has decided to step down as Chair and from the Board of Trustees with immediate effect. The Trustees would like to thank Peter for all his work on behalf of the Society.

    Laura Bamford has been appointed Acting Chair and will, along with her fellow Trustees, continue to work closely with Amanda and the Poetry Society staff over the coming months.

  19. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 11:21 am

    30th June, 2011 – from Kate Clanchy: Thursday Update

    It’s gratifying to know that lots of people feel the same – it’s not about taking sides, or dissing anyone, it’s about transparency and truth-telling from a publicly funded organisation that is supposed to represent poets and poetry.

    Catherine Smith

    Now Peter Carpenter, Chairman of the Trustees, has stepped down with immediate effect! We must be told what’s going on.

    Stephen Wilson

    Who is this unsigned message from? How many trustees are left? Why does the PS dig itself deeper into a hole with each uncommunicative communiqué? Please explain truthfully what is going on.

    Paul Hyland
    _____________________________

    Dear Requisitioners,

    I’m sorry this is late: I’ve been delayed by the sheer volume of signatures.

    Because at lunchtime on Thursday, we are

    323 signatures,

    with just 17 to go to reach our original target of 340.

    Please don’t take that 17 for granted: keep putting out the emails, twitters, notes on comment boards, postings on blogs and walls. The number needs to be as high as possible, both to provide a margin of error, and to demonstrate how serious and many we are. There won’t be a deadline on the requisition: we will keep adding names till the moment we deliver it. Please keep sending in postal addresses and PoSoc numbers: we need these too. And rest assured that nothing will be sent out in your name before you have consented to its exact wording in a special email.

    The news that Peter Carpenter has resigned as Chair of the Poetry Society and an interim Director appointed seems only to have added to your anger and to the volume of new signatories. The requisitioners quoted above sum up the views of many. I’d like to add, personally, that I knew Peter Carpenter years ago as a man of exceptional kindness and integrity and that I am sure he would only have taken on the job of Chair with the very best of intentions.

    The Requisition:

    I have been receiving lots of comments about the wording of the Requisition and have been requesting and taking lots of advice. The Requisition has evolved a good deal, very openly, since it inception as a humble petition, and I think that’s been a strength of the campaign. The Requisition exists by our common consent. It is to ask the Poetry Society to explain what is going on. Those are the principles I keep returning to as I adjust the wording, but I also have to keep listening to those who know about the law and about meetings. This is the current wording:

    We, the undersigned, constituting as we believe ten percent of the members of the Poetry Society, having learnt of the resignation of the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the Director, the Finance Manager and the President of the Society, and in order to determine whether the Board of Trustees has their continuing confidence, require the Board to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting to provide an explanation, in the transparent and accountable manner the members expect of its elected representatives, of the events leading to these resignations; an independently chaired forum for the statements of members and for their questions; and a detailed account of how the Board will continue the business of the Society in accordance with its stated aims and purposes.

    ______________________

    And these are the questions I imagine you asking, and that you really have asked. The we in the answers is we, the requistioners, the many who have signed and contributed.

    - Has a lawyer looked at this?

    Yes. Three, actually, top-notch ones, and they are still looking at it and it may yet change and have to be put before you again. But so far, they think it is sound.

    - Does it work with the PoSoc Constitution?

    Yes, checked that.

    - So you put the Chair in there too?

    Yes. Because hasn’t said why either.

    - What’s that new clause – about the ‘independently chaired forum’?

    Most people signing the requisition want, above all, a space to listen and to be heard. While the meeting is the Board’s to arrange , hold and chair, we also want a guaranteed space where we can talk, listen and ask. So we are requiring one, with a independent chair for at least that section of the meeting.

    - Can you do that?

    There seems to be no reason why not.

    - Oh, but they’ll never say anything anyway – it’s all embargoed.

    Some information may be embargoed, but we are not talking about one individual here, we are talking about a group of resignations and the Governance, and policies of Governance, which led to them. Policies and practice of Governance within the Poetry Society can be discussed and are our business. We have also been notified of important statements which members wish to make ( as above).

    - There isn’t a motion – it’ll all go pear-shaped!

    There is an embedded motion which gives a shape to the meeting, and it is in the words : in order to determine whether the Board of Trustees has their continuing confidence. That sets out the purpose of the meeting: for the Board to explain, for us to listen, and for us to decide whether we trust the Board to carry on.

    - And if we don’t?

    If we the members hear information which makes us loose confidence in the Board and their actions, then we shall raise a motion of No Confidence from the floor and vote on it, preferably by a secret ballot. If we get a lot of information and are happy, we will all go to tea instead.

    - No Confidence? But I’ll be in Spain! Can we have proxy votes?.

    We could have proxies if we had decided in advance of the meeting that the motion is No Confidence. We haven’t done that because, overwhelmingly, what you want is to be able to ask and to listen. We are not judging before we have listened, and so we are not voting, or even proposing to vote, before have listened.

    - What if we do vote no confidence?

    Then the Board has the right to extend the vote to all the membership by post. Alternatively, some or all of the Board may choose to resign. Some may then be immediately voted back on.

    - It’s a lynch mob! You just want to get rid of the Board and get on yourself!

    No. That’s why there is not a motion of No Confidence on the Requisition, and why we don’t have proxy votes. This is an exercise in honesty, openness, and transparency. That is what we want from the Board and that is how we are behaving ourselves. We want, in all honesty, to hear what has happened. We want the Board to tell us, honestly. I do not wish to serve on the Board of the Poetry Society and will under no circumstances have my name put forward to do so.

    - Then why have that determining confidence thingmejiggy?

    Because the meeting also has to have boundaries and a point. It’s a still a meeting.

    - It’s a fine line.

    We’re walking it.

    - And what about the capital letter question? I see you’re evading that one!

    No, actually, I took a poll, and the majority prefer the use of capital letters. I’m so glad punctuation is important to all of us. It’s what makes us poets.

    Kate

    View from a Requisitioner: no 4

    From time to time, the members of any healthy community need to be able to speak sincerely, to share views honestly, to agree and to disagree. The poetry world is no different, and we should expect it to operate, always, with a certain level of friction. What is worrying about the present situation at the Poetry Society, therefore, is not that so much already has been said but that so much remains unsaid. The resignation of three senior members of the Poetry Society Board is extraordinary, of course, but not as extraordinary as the deafening silence which has followed. The Poetry Society is not a private club – as well as being accountable to its members it is accountable, ultimately, to the public. Both as a means of clarifying what has happened and as a way to act based on any clarification, an EGM seems necessary.

    John Redmond

  20. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 11:16 am

    30th June, 2011 – From the Poetry Society to all members

    Dear Poetry Society member,

    Please see below a message from Laura Bamford, Acting Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Poetry Society.

    NOTICE OF GENERAL MEETING

    The Poetry Society (Incorporated)
    Company Number 01557657

    NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that a General Meeting of the above-named company will be held in Lecture Theatre 1, The Royal College of Surgeons, 35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PE on Friday 22 July 2011 at 2.00pm for the following purpose:

    To outline the future strategy of The Poetry Society and to receive members’ input

    Dated 30 June 2011
    By order of the Board

    Laura Bamford
    Acting Chair

  21. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 11:15 am

    30th June, 2011 – From Kate Clanchy re General Meeting

    Hello, Requistioners,
    Golly, what an exciting afternoon. I feel quite ill.

    I think most of you will have heard by now that the Poetry Society is calling its own, apparently not extraordinary but definitely captialised General Meeting.

    I’m concerned that the agenda only addressed part of the concerns we have expressed in our Requisition and in your now 3000 plus emails, so I’m taking advice and looking for ways forward.

    That means your advice. I want to hear from any one with a thought to express. This has been an open process so far and I want to keep it that way.

    Kate

  22. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 11:13 am

    1st July, 2011 – From Kate Clanchy: Requisition and General Meeting

    Dear 10% of the voting members of the Poetry Society!,

    As I may now address you, for at the last count, we are

    356

    which, even allowing for some of you having lapsed without noticing, and for the sudden increase in membership as people join in order to require, is comfortably more than the 10% of voting members needed to call an EGM. (Not all members of PoSoc are individual, voting members, btw, about 500 are eg Sixth Form Libraries, and so not entitled to lumber along to Meetings). Lydia MacPherson and Samantha Wynne Rhydderch are still at work on the spreadsheet of your names, addresses and numbers, and I can’t thank them enough for their generosity and dedication. The list is not closed, and I’d urge you to keep urging people to join. It would be great to be 400.

    But, as I think you all know by now, the Poetry Society called its own General Meeting last night, for Friday 22nd July at 2pm in Lincoln’s Inn, to discuss the ‘future’ of the PoSoc. I put out a call for advice last night, and have received more than 30 emails in response. I wish I could publish these responses : long, thoughtful, knowledgeable, witty , clever, nugatory, passionate pieces which show that poets write great prose and are not half as vague and Keatsian as we are made out to be. (Maybe I could collate them anonymously and send them to ACE, for future reference) Jane Holland also put up a trenchant piece on Raw Light which spoke for so many. I thank you all so very much, and wish that I could write back to you all in detail. I can’t, so here is my summary:

    As a group, you are very concerned that the PoSoc wishes to evade our carefully-thought out, passionately-felt agenda. We want an account of the policy decisions, not the personal behaviour, of the Board which lead to the resignations. We don’t believe this is all embargoed. As poets, we feel shamed by the disrepute the whole affaire has lead us into, and we feel owed an account not just of what has happened, but of the chaos and silence which lead to all the rumours. We don’t want to be filibustered out of an explanation. We don’t want the meeting to be bland and corporate. We don’t want the meeting to be chaotic, either, with individual agendas hi-jacking the discussion. Very passionately, we want an independent chair to keep us in order and be fair. We are very unhappy with the timing of the meeting on a weekday, when many will be away and unable to attend. We want an agenda published in advance, and we want it to include our issues.

    And here are three interesting facts, gleaned from close readings of the Constitution of the Poetry Society.

    1 We can pre-empt with an EGM if we want. This is because the notice period for a General Meeting is 21 days, whereas for a EGM, it’s 14 days. So, if we delivered the Requisition Notice in a wheelbarrow to Betterton Street on Monday morning (does anyone have a wheelbarrow and live in Covent Garden?) then the Board would have call an EGM the week before the GM and cancel the GM.

    2 At a General Meeting, motions can be raised from the floor, by any member, without notice and voted on provided two members request this. So, if the GM does go ahead, we can still raise our own agenda, and we will, and, what is more, we will get organised beforehand and share and agree and generally not act like a bunch of nutty poets. Organising this requisition has been a great experience because everyone has behaved generously and thoughtfully. I know we can take it all the way.

    3 Proxies: if you can’t make the meeting, you can nominate a proxy to vote for you as well as him/herself at the meeting. This isn’t a single vote on a pre-determined issue: you actually nominate the other member to take decisions for you on all the votes in the meeting, even if several new ones arise. A single member may be proxy for any number of others. So, for example, if the sub-group of you known to me as The Hundred Friends of Chrissie Gittens chose to nominate Chrissie as your proxy, Chrissie could come to the meeting and vote as a hundred people on all the issues, like a 1970’s Union Baron. Which she might or might not think was a fun way to spend the afternoon. I think we could use proxies as a very good way to get round the issues of distance, timing and representation so many of you raise, and I also think we could use the web to make sure everyone who wanted had a proxy they really knew and trusted to represent them.

    First though, the meeting.

    All through this process, I have asked openly and relied on public information and good will to get answers. I didn’t seek the signatures of Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke through private email, for example: they came across the Requisition as a public issue and freely offered their support. I asked for help with the legal advice, laser printers, and the nitty-gritty of the Constitution, openly, and it has been offered, by extraordinarily well-qualified, experienced, brilliant people. It’s been moving and inspiring, and I want to keep it going.

    So what I intend to do now is to be open with PoSoc, and hope they will respond. I’m going to write an open letter to Laura Bamford, Chair of Trustees, informing her of the Requisition, its wording ,and the number of signatories. I will note that the General Meeting could meet our concerns, but ask that it have an independent chair, such as the MPs Alan Howarth or Chris Smith, that the Agenda include a discussion of the recent past of the Poetry Society as well as its future, and that the majority of the meeting should be given over to motions from the floor. That way, if we organise ourselves properly, and don’t act like a bunch of nanas, we can still have a good, representative meeting. If the Board can’t grant our requests, we press will press ahead with the Requisition and have our own meeting.
    I will send the letter in the next email. I hope I am doing the best, most representative thing here, and if you feel I am not, you must let me know.
    Meet and talk. I’m reading at the Southbank 7pm Sunday, so I thought I could get there at about 4.30 and sit outside in the cafe to meet anyone who wanted to talk. I’m the one with the short hair and glasses, but I’ll get a badge.

    Kate

  23. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 11:10 am

    1st July 2011 – Open letter to the Board of Trustees

    Dear Laura Bamford,

    I write to you as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Poetry Society, on behalf of 356 members of the Society, including Carol Ann Duffy, Gillian Clarke, George Szirtes, Dr Alastair Niven, Vicki Feaver, Neil Astley, Imtiaz Dharker, and Michael Schmidt, who have come together to sign the following requisition.

    While we were still gathering signatures , however, and indeed we believe in response to our efforts, the Board of the Poetry Society called a General Meeting for the 22nd of July. We are glad that the Board is moving in the direction of openness and transparency, and hope that the Board will be able to work with our group in making this meeting one which can truly set the Poetry Society on a happier path. We have two central concerns:

    We, the undersigned, constituting as we believe ten percent of the members of the Poetry Society, having learnt of the resignation of the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the Director, the Finance Manager and the President of the Society, and in order to determine whether the Board of Trustees has their continuing confidence, require the Board to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting to provide an explanation, in the transparent and accountable manner the members expect of its elected representatives, of the events leading to these resignations; an independently chaired forum for the statements of members and for their questions; and a detailed account of how the Board will continue the business of the Society in accordance with its stated aims and purposes.

    1) The Chair: Our group feels passionately that, in order to have a fair and orderly meeting, we need an outside, independent Chair. We suggest someone of the stature of Alan Howarth, MP, who has a passion for poetry and experience of public life, but no interest in any faction. We hope you will agree with us on this and work with us to find an appropriate person.

    2) The Matter of the Meeting: We are concerned that you set out the matter of the meeting as being ‘the future’ of the Poetry Society. We believe, that in order for the Society to move forward, we also need to examine the recent past. As members, we are entitled to raise motions from the floor and will: however we consider that it would be more honest and orderly for a consideration of recent events, a detailed statement on them from the Board, and an opportunity for questions, to be mentioned in your outline of the matter of the meeting and also in any published Agenda.

    We offer these concerns openly in the hope that the Board will also be constructive and open, and act on our suggestions. If the Board is unable to accommodate us, we will, with regret, formally serve the Board with our Requisition, which will then require it to call an Extraordinary General Meeting preceding the General Meeting. We think this would be a waste of resources, and would do so with regret.

    Yours faithfully,

    Kate Clanchy

  24. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 11:06 am

    1st July, 2011 – from Kate Clanchy: Response from Laura Bamford to Open Letter

    Dear 10% of PoSoc ( 367!),

    This is the reply Laura Bamford sent to me in reply to the open letter. As I wrote on behalf of you all, openly, I think it is the right thing to do to pass the reply on, openly, though as you will see, the tone and mode of address are confusing.
    I’m disappointed in the reply, but I would be keen to have your thoughts. I think I should reply quickly, because if we want to use the requisition we also have to do that quickly, but I appreciate that most of you are busy. If any of you have time to email thoughts, though, I’d be very grateful.
    Kate

    ___________________

    Laura Bamford
    Date: Fri, Jul 1, 2011 at 4:45 PM
    Subject: Re: Poetry Society
    To: Kate Clanchy

    Kate – very many thanks for your letter: the Trustees and co-Members obviously share many of the same concerns. It is the intention of the Trustees to hear from Members and we will be taking questions. We share Members concerns about recent events, as I am sure you can understand

    We will be able to come back to you next week with further suggestions on the Matter of the Meeting. We have been looking into the possibility, constitutionally speaking, about getting somebody to ‘chair’ or ‘present’ the meeting and we appreciate your thoughts on that

    If you have any other suggestions, do let us know. As you know, I did call you earlier this week, although I realise you were too busy to talk at the time and you felt in your subsequent email that you oughtn’t to meet as I had suggested

    I am going out very shortly and will be able to respond in greater detail next week, as promised, but as I say, do let us have any further concerns and suggestions. The Trustees will do our utmost to ensure an effective meeting so that we can look to our future together

    kind regards laura

  25. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 11:02 am

    2nd July 2011, from Kate Clanchy: Saturday Update – EGM

    We don’t want to know who quarrelled with whom. We do want to know what the disagreement is about. If there is a shift in emphasis in Poetry Society work, and how money is to be spent, tell us please. This cannot be kept under wraps. The truth will out, so let’s talk about it openly now.

    Gillian Clarke
    ________________________________

    Dear 11% of the Poetry Society,

    This morning, we are magnificent, multifarious, and very articulate 380.

    And we have Helen Dunmore and George Szirtes in our number, recent winners of the National Poetry Competition and the TS Eliot Prize, and tireless givers to the community of writers.

    Last night I circulated the reply to my open letter made by Laura Bamford, Chair of the Poetry Society, and asked for your responses. Amazingly, many of you found time to write me detailed letters which I’m going to try to summarise, along with my own thoughts.

    First of all, the tone of the letter, which was addressed to Dear Kate. One or two of you found this positive a stiffly well-meant attempt to be friendly, not hostile, but the majority of you thought is was unprofessional and as though she is replying to a next-door neighbour who has asked to trim the leylandii.

    Several of you were concerned about her reference to speaking to me, and I realised the letter gave the impression I had been negative and difficult. Maybe I had. Laura Bamford, whom I do not know, rang me at home on Wednesday, suggesting ‘a cup of coffee’ . I was taken aback and pressured, and rang off, I think rudely. Later, I wrote her an email explaining that as I was communicating with all you lot by email, I would prefer to communicate with her by email, so that communication could be shared. She didn’t write back though.

    Personally, I found the tone and address of her letter embarrassing and wrong-footing because I had explicitly written a formal open letter on behalf of many, and she replied with what seemed a personal note. I didn’t know if I could forward it or not, and I felt compromised.

    More seriously, as you commented, the tone infers a lack of appreciation of the fact that the 10% require a meeting and require that it’s conducted in a neutral manner. These aren’t ‘suggestions’ from one member (ie, yourself) but demands made by 10% of the society.

    The request for a neutral Chair is a very important one for very many of you. Several of you were very upset by the quotation marks around ‘chair’ and ‘present’. We want a Chair, not a ‘chair’ – someone to do a very well defined job, and definitely not a presenter, was typical. Many were also very anxious about the time-scale involved: ‘I wonder how long it will take them “constitutionally” to check if someone can chair.’ ‘There may be inconclusive discussion of possible chairs with you and the PoSoc putting up alternatives and probably disagreeing about them.’ A lawyer advised: ‘the Articles of the Poetry Society Constitution do not provide for an outside chair, but nor do they exclude them. If the Board met and agreed to an independent Chair, then there would be no constitutional barrier to appointing one. ‘ We don’t know if the Board have met in this case, but rumour strongly suggests they have, in which case they would seem not to have agreed to an outside Chair in the traditional, constitutional sense we requested.

    What concerned you most of all though, was the fact that the letter ignored our request no 2 , the Matter of the Meeting. More than thirty strongly expressed letters reminded me to return to the central matter of the requisition: What was the issue or issues which caused the resignations? Were these issues of policy affecting the mission/direction of the society? Many of you felt that ‘the Society ‘needed to examine and explain the past before it could move on to the future.’ Another person commented ‘so that we can look to our future together’ sounds almost like a concession – but what future would the Trustees have without the members?’ Gillian Clarke wrote the short, powerful note which I have used to head this Update. I hope she will not mind me once again making use of her Laureate’s ability to speak succinctly for many.

    The question of time and momentum came up over and over again. LB says she will get back to you during this next week. This means the possibility of calling an EGM before 22 July disappears. The word ‘stall’ was used many times. Though one powerful voice urged ‘wait and see’ most of you urged the seizing of the day, and the pressing ahead with the requisition, and a pre-emptive meeting. Without this, you would be left with a requisition on behalf of 10 per cent of members which isn’t used. The ‘requisition’ is clear and completely appropriate, why not go ahead with it? I strongly suggest you go ahead with the EGM!

    Two people however, suggested this compromise, which I think is so brilliant that I am reproducing it in full:

    Problems

    1 Holding two General Meetings so close to each other is unreasonable and a waste of money and the PoSoc would probably refuse to do it. In reality there will only be one General Meeting – the one called by the PoSoc on 22 July.

    2 Trying to raise the issues of concern through a series of motions from the floor is very risky. There is a chance of individual motions being blocked on procedural grounds with PoSoc lawyers present in support, or of the discussion going off at tangents, or simply of people not putting their case very well – not everyone is experienced in speaking at large meetings. It would be much more effective if the meeting had to consider the issues set out in the EGM requisition. Because it’s a formal requisition, the PoSoc has no choice but to allow the matters to be debated (short of staff confidentality), so everyone will know they will arise at the meeting and be prepared. The wording of the requisition needs to be tighter, too.

    3 The question of the Chair.

    These problems would be resolved by serving the EGM requisition straight away, but requiring our EGM to be held at the same time or immediately before the GM. This will force the PoSoc to address our agenda. The simplest solution to the problem of the chair is to include the election of a chair for the meeting in the requisition. This means the Chair will be a PoSoc member, not an outsider. But we can find an appropriate candidate such as Dr Alastair Niven, or Laurie Smith of Magma.

    In order to do this we would amend the Requisition as follows:

    We, the undersigned, constituting as we believe ten percent of the members of the Poetry Society, having learnt of the resignation of the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the Director, the Finance Manager and the President of the Society, and in order to determine whether, in these extraordinary circumstances, the Board of Trustees has their continuing confidence, require the Board to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting, with a Chair elected by that meeting, to provide an explanation, in the transparent and accountable manner the members expect of their elected representatives, of the practices, policies and changes in policy which lead to these resignations, and to answer questions on this matter from the floor. In order to avoid unreasonable expense to the Society, we require the Extraordinary General Meeting to be held before or instead of the General Meeting called by the Society at 2pm on 22 July 2011.

    This is the solution I would favour, personally, because it allows for both our meetings to happen, the Requistors’ and the Board’s, the one about the past and the one about the future. It’s firm and fair.

    Could you let me have your thoughts, though? I want to go forward as group, especially if we reach the magic 400.

    To remind you: no one will be signed up to anything with your consent. Each one of you will be sent a confirmatory email with your name, address( A work address, agent or postcode is ok) PoSoc number, and the exact wording on it, and only when you have confirmed will you be added to the Requisition.

    Whatever we decide to do as a group, we have to be prepared, so I ‘m now going to put out a call for

    HELP

    We need:

    A Proxies Person: 22nd of July is a very inconvenient date. Lots of people are asking about Proxies already, and it is very important they find the right one. We need someone ( not me) to run a webpage and Gmail account to let members know who is available to act as a Proxy, put them safely in touch with each other, and issue forms. Any volunteers? Someone with a blog?

    Team Wheelbarrow : on either Monday or Tuesday: People in central London with access to a laser printer to print off the record of emails. Someone to write up the Requisition in big letters so it looks great. The signatures will be folded beneath, so there won’t be a ‘grand reveal’ moment, and no names will be highlighted in any way without explicit consent. People willing to pack the requisition into its wheelbarrow, form a rabble, and march it to Betterton Street. The Wheelbarrow is being provided by Anna of Waterloo, and is apparently a fine, shiny, red conveyance. The wheelbarrow thing started as a joke, but actually, I think it is a good way of conveying just how many 400 names is: the physical reality of it. And it will make a nice photo

    That’s it for now. I’m sorry these updates are so long and have lost their jaunty tone – I suppose we are getting to the serious bit.

    Kate

  26. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 10:58 am

    3rd July 2011, from Kate Clanchy: text of requisition

    By replying to this email I agree to the following Requisition:

    We, the undersigned, constituting as we believe ten percent of the members of The Poetry Society, having learnt of the resignation of the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the Director, the Finance Manager and the President of the Society, and in order to determine whether, in these extraordinary circumstances, the Board of Trustees has our continuing confidence, require the Board to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting, with a Chair elected by that meeting, to provide an explanation of the practices, policies and changes in policy which led to these resignations, and to answer questions on this matter from the floor. In order to avoid unreasonable expense to the Society, we require the Extraordinary General Meeting to be held before or instead of the General Meeting called by the Society at 2pm on 22 July 2011.

  27. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 10:54 am

    3rd July 2011 – From Kate Clanchy: Requisition and proxies

    There’s a brilliant sense of unity of purpose. Let’s hope that this is the beginning of wonderful ways to work together, to keep in touch and to share everything that is wonderful about poetry.

    Ann Gray

    So much depends

    On a red

    wheelbarrow -

    William Carlos Williams
    ____________________________________

    Hello,

    400 Members of the Poetry Society,

    For we hit the magic number last night.

    Several of you have reproached me for going on too long last time. I did. It’s the containing multitudes bit which wears me down, sorry. But this update will be short.

    I’ve had another huge mail bag, and I’m very sorry if I haven’t got back personally to each of you. I have read everything, and overwhelmingly, you are in favour of the compromise option, which effectively imposes our agenda on the PoSoc meeting. So, without further ado, I will email that Requisition out today for each of you to make a final personal decision. Please remember to return the email if you want to sign up!

    The Requisition is still open. Do urge anyone who would like to to sign up. The larger and more diverse our group the better, and I hope people might join to be partake of our spirit of openness and dialogue and as well as to support the cause.

    The wheelbarrow will be delivered to Betterton Street on 3.30 on Tuesday, and I hope that many Requisitors might be around to raise a cheer. This isn’t a ‘press stunt’ by the way: more a way of celebrating what we have done with a cheerful and poetic symbol. Because, even though there are aspects of this which are a nasty bureaucratic squabble, the campaign for openness in itself has gathered people together in a spirit of humour and affection for each other and the Poetry Society. Does any one happen to have two white chickens? Plush ones would probably be best…

    Proxies: A lot of people are asking about Proxies, and they are going to be important to make sure people are represented at the meeting. I’m attaching a form at the bottom of this email. If you know who you’d like to be your proxy, and you are already in touch with him/her then all you have to do is tell the person, fill in the form, and send it to PoSoc 48 hours before the meeting (warning to the 100 friends of Chrissie Gittens: Chrissie is on holiday) . I’m still figuring out how to set up a system to match up proxies with people who want one but don’t know one.

    And that’s it,

    Kate

  28. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 10:52 am

    4th July 2011 – From Kate Clanchy: Requisition and proxies

    Dear Requsitors,

    Our Requistion will be delivered to The Poetry Society tomorrow at 3.30 pm, led by Anna of the Wheelbarrow and Chrissie of the Hundred Friends. Anyone who is able to be there, please join the rabble. We’re the ones with the red wheelbarrow. Our quest for white chickens has so far been unsuccessful, but a glaze of rain is apparently on the cards. Again, this is not an intended to be a press stunt, more a light-hearted and affectionate gesture.

    There will be more than 412 signatures on the Requisition.

    Anyone who’d still like to join, please could do you so by Midnight tonight. Confirmations are flowing in, but the G.mail account is actually very hard to deal with, even for such outstanding technical brains as Lydia and Samantha, so Please, could you only confirm on the email with the subject line: FINAL…. RETURN

    Proxies: FAQ

    Q I can’t get to the July 22nd meeting! What shall I do?

    A Find another Poetry Society member to be your Proxy.

    Q How does that work? We don’t know the motions yet.

    A You actually allow them to vote for you, on whatever motions come up.

    Q Really? Blimey! You’d have to really trust them!

    A Yes, but it’s not impossible. What about your Stanza Rep?

    Q That’s a good idea. But I’m sure she’s already doing Sylvia’s -

    A That’s okay. One member can be the proxy holder for any number of others –

    Q Really? Alright, I’ll ask her then -

    A Good. She might even turn up as your entire Stanza, with 14 votes to cast on any motion-

    Q Nah – no good. She’s going to Spain too – she wanted me to be her proxy

    A In that case, you will have to find another person. We have a list of people who have volunteered: Katy Evans-Bush, Alan Buckley, George Szirtes, Kate Clanchy, Samantha Wynne Ryhderrch, Laurie Smith, Todd Swift, Andy Ching but we are hoping for others –

    Q Sylvia said she might do it after all. She quite fancies having loads of votes, like a Union baron -

    A Please ask her to tell me then. I can add her name to that list –

    Q But think I rather fancy that Andy Ching bloke instead. Donut Press, isn’t it?

    A That’s right.

    Q Smashing. Lovely little books – But how do I get in touch with him?

    A Any hope of trying facebook? We are still constructing a system here at Requisition Towers –

    Q Oh but -

    A It’s a bit hectic alright? I’ve left 2 names off that proxy list, can’t find them anywhere – Wheelbarrows, chickens, Gmail, capital letters, picky poets everywhere …

    Q Calm down. I’ll ask him. Then what do I do?

    A Fill in the form attached. Send it to PoSoc 48 hours before the meeting. That’s it.

    Kate

  29. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 10:47 am

    5th July 2011 – From Kate Clanchy

    On this vital day for poets and for the rescue of The Poetry Society from its current quagmire, a wish that today becomes the day when the governance of The Poetry Society steps back into the real world, and heeds our voices raised in great concern.

    Penelope Shuttle
    ______________________________

    Hello everyone,

    The Wheelbarrow has landed, lightly glazed with rain.
    We’re hoping for photos soon.

    The requisition means that PoSoc will have to hold our EGM instead of or before their GM, and that we able to ask our burning question: What went wrong?

    Proxies: Load of people are still asking about Proxies. I’m attaching the Proxy form again, in case you’ve lost it. If you can’t make the meeting, then all you do is select a Proxy, check he is going to the meeting and is willing to be your Proxy-holder, then fill in the form twice and send one copy to the Poetry Society and one copy to your selected person.
    Polly Clark, Stephen Wilson and Norbert Hirschbaum have offered to be proxy-holders to add to yesterday’s list of Katy Evans-Bush, Alan Buckley, George Szirtes, Kate Clanchy, Samantha Wynne Ryhderrch, Laurie Smith, Todd Swift, and Andy Ching.

    Anyway, I never thought I’d say such a thing, but I think the best way to find a proxy if you don’t know one is Facebook. The Poetry Society has kindly put up a page for us on

    https://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/event.php?eid=113453065413814&view=wall&notif_t=event_wall

    And I think people who are going to the meeting and willing to be a proxy-holder should post their names there. Then people who are looking for a proxy-holder can get in touch with them on their page.

    In haste,
    Kate

  30. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 10:45 am

    6th July, 2011 – From Kate Clanchy: Wheelbarrow and correspondence with Laura Bamford

    Hello, Requisitors,

    The wheelbarrow is the Guardian and all over Facebook. Thank you so much to those who pushed and turned up.

    Proxies,

    The happy idea of using the Po Soc Facebook page to arrange proxies has taken off beautifully, with many cheerful pairings. I am also attaching a list of requistitors willing to act as proxies on this update with their emails, which I am trusting will be used responsibly. The goal here is representation, not power-blocking,: I’m hoping for lots of members turning up representing just a few others who they really know and trust. I’m also attaching the proxy form, again. To give someone your proxy, you have to print this off, fill it in, and send it to PoSoc. Then you have to formally notify the holder. You can do this by printing off the form again and sending it, but you can also send it by email, or, it refuses to be typed upon, simply reproduce the wording in an email. PoSoc will hold the signatures. Please do not be put off by odd rumblings from the depths saying that there will be no vote at this meeting. Of course there will be a vote. We are the members of the society, and we are entitled to call one.

    The Requisition

    I’ve received a reply from Laura Bamford, and written back as below. I can only hope this okay, and that the Society won’t try to evade the meeting. IF they do, we do have lawyers and the law on our side, but I think we should remember that we also have right, and the right to appeal to public opinion.

    Kate
    _______________________________
    From Laura Bamford:

    Kate – I was very sorry not to meet you this afternoon, along with your colleagues, the wheelbarrow and the signatures. I hope that Peter, Chrissie, Anna, Roderick and Anthony(?.) enjoyed the plums – again, grace a WCWilliams

    As I outlined to them this afternoon, we are currently drawing up a draft Agenda for the meeting 22 July and we would like to get that across to the Members for their input also as soon as possible. We intend to take questions from the floor, as mentioned and we agree that an orderly Agenda covering the issues will be enormously helpful in ensuring the meeting is the most effective possible, for the greatest number of people

    We hope to have the draft across to you over the weekend and your speedy response thereafter!

    once again, very many thanks for the spirit in which you delivered the signatures: it was much appreciated by all of us

    I look forward to meeting 22July or sooner

    kind regards laura
    __________________________
    From Kate Clanchy:

    Dear Laura Bamford, Chair of the Board of Trustees,

    Thank you for your letter reproduced below. We seem to have a problem of address and formality here, which I would like to sort out. I am not acting as an individual in this matter, which is why I refused your offer of an individual meeting. Nor am acting as a leader: I am the convenor of a group of more than 400 individuals who include the Poet Laureate and the Welsh Laureate. That is a heavy responsibility, and, as I also explained in previous email, I need the protection of formality to help me carry it. I suggest that future correspondence is addressed, at my Gmail address, to ‘The Requisition Group’ : that way, I will feel more comfortable sharing your missives.

    I regret that your letter does not address our Requisition but appears to be answering the Open Letter of Friday the 1st of July. But, as I wrote to you under separate cover on Monday, the 4th of July, our group felt that your response to that letter was not satisfactory, and therefore we decided to proceed with our Requisition. In order to save trouble and expense to the Society, we decided to require that our EGM be held instead of or preceding the Society’s GM. Our requisition also stipulates the election of a Chair from the floor, an explanation of the practices, policies and changes in policy which led to the resignations, and that the Board must answer questions on this matter from the floor.

    We are confident that consultations with your lawyers will confirm that our EGM must take precedence over your GM. We hope to receive a notice of the EGM from the Society by 2pm today.

    Finally, we hope the Board understands the moral outrage the Members would feel should the Board, by whatever means, attempt to evade this meeting. We are the members: you are the Trustees. Your authority comes from our trust. We need you to tell us what you have done, and why, in order for us to continue to trust you. That is why we are requiring you to have an extraordinary meeting.

    Yours,

    Kate Clanchy

  31. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 10:40 am

    6th July, 2011 – from Kate Clanchy: Good news and bad news

    The good news is we have a webpage, set up by the wonderful Martin Alexander.

    Martin writes: ‘There are several responses on the Facebook page, but it isn’t accessible to anyone without a Facebook account. this is : the address is http://thepoetrysocietyuk.wordpress.com.

    I’ve also included links to news articles, blogs, and detailed directions of how to get to the Royal College of Surgeons, so I think it might be helpful to those of the Fantastic 400 who will be attending.’

    I’m one of those without a Facebook account, and I shall be going there right away. I can see it getting more and more useful.

    More good news: a very warm and sympathetic article on today’s Guardian website, by Alison Flood. (see News section of the site)

    Bad News: they still haven’t replied. I have written the following stiff note:

    Dear Board of Trustees,

    We regret your delay in responding to our Requisition served yesterday at 3.30. 14 days notice is required for an EGM, and not all members of the Society are on email. If your delay continues and results in the notice period being too short, we will regard this as unreasonable.

    We would also like to convey the anxiety felt by many members of the group about the presumed expenditure on lawyers by the Board. If the Board chooses to evade the clearly expressed will of the members through the use of expensive lawyers paid for by our membership fees, there will be widespread and deeply felt anger.

    Yours faithfully,
    The Requisition Group

    Kate

  32. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 10:36 am

    6th July, 2011 – From the Poetry Society, to all members

    Dear Poetry Society member,

    Please see below a message from Laura Bamford, Acting Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Poetry Society.

    Further Poetry Society news can be found in the Media Room page of our website.
    Thank you to those of you who delivered the requisition in such an imaginative and poetic way yesterday. I want to reassure all members that we will, of course, do all we can to address your concerns at the General Meeting on Friday 22 July.

    The Trustees are currently drafting an agenda which we will circulate to you all next week. It has also been suggested that we have an independent chair of the meeting. The Society’s Memorandum and Articles don’t allow for this but we are actively exploring the possibility of using an experienced and independent facilitator at the meeting.

    I’m sorry to say that Robyn Bolam has decided to resign as a Trustee of the Board. Robyn has been an immensely valuable and important colleague – and former Chair (2009-2010). Robyn has sent the following message: ‘After three and a half years as a trustee, I resigned from the role on 4 July because it has become increasingly difficult for me to carry out my duties to the Society. I would like to thank my fellow trustees, with whom I have always had a very positive working relationship, and, as a member of over thirty years, I will continue to support every aspect of the Poetry Society to the best of my ability.’

    With best wishes,

    Laura Bamford

  33. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 10:33 am

    7th July 2011 – From Kate Clanchy: Important message from the Laureates

    Poetry is truth. In poetry’s name, and on behalf of all poets, we urge the Poetry Society to meet its members’ request for the truth, so that together we can shape our Society’s future, and make it fit for the art whose name it carries.

    Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate
    Gillian Clarke, National Poet for Wales

    Good Morning,

    There are 458 people on this mailing list now. You weren’t all in the wheelbarrow, owing to your poet’s inability to fill forms, keep up memberships etc, but all of you count as part of this group, and I’d just like to remind you all how rare and remarkable it is to have such a gathering of dedicated individualists.

    By now, all of you will have received last night’s note from Laura Bamford which essentially repeated the letter she sent to us in the morning. I know from your emails, and feel for myself, how dispiriting and patronising we find it to have our Requisition like this: not refused or refuted, but trivialised, treated as if were a suggestion, not a requirement.

    I’ve been sent a few suggestions as to what to do, and as you know, I’m always ready to read more. Many suggested a solicitor’s letter, pointing out the legal requirement for an EGM to take precedence over a GM and I am pursuing that

    Another letter, from someone very experienced in meetings, suggested the following: It would be for discussion what threat we employ if the Board declines to give the EGM precedence. My suggestion is to propose a motion to this effect at the beginning of the meeting and for all the requisitioners to stand and refuse to sit until the motion is accepted or voted on. This makes the meeting unmanageable, so the Board has to give in or adjourn.

    I can see that that would work. I can see that the solicitor’s letter is a necessity. But I feel very sad to be pursuing these options, because they will both cost the Poetry Society. The Board is not using pro bono lawyers: they are using the sort of lawyers who cost a membership fee every time they breathe out. Reading our pro bono solicitor’s letter will cost a Foyle Young Poets place on an Arvon course. Replying will cost an officer’s monthly salary. Disrupting a meeting as suggested would be a violent rift in the Society’s relationship with its members, one which would take decades to heal. Do we really have to do that? Are we really going to be driven to it?

    Today will tell. I’m going to write to the Trustees to say simply, how saddened we are by their response, and include the statement from the Laureates which opened this page and which I am very proud and grateful to have. I’d urge any of you to follow the example of Bert Molsom and Tom Richardson and write to the Trustees on your own behalf, expressing your discontent. And please, keep pursuing contacts and proxies on Facebook or on our own website at

    http://thepoetrysocietyuk.wordpress.com -

    ( thank you again, Martin Alexander, for setting up this vital facility)

    Do it because we are entitled, because it’s the democratic thing to do , and the open, optimistic thing to do. If we keep doing the right thing, we will get the right response.

    Kate

  34. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 10:26 am

    8th July 2011 – from the Board of Trustees: Extraordinary General Meeting

    Dear Poetry Society member,

    Please see below a message from Laura Bamford, Acting Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Poetry Society, including the agenda for the meeting on 22 July and Extraordinary General Meeting guidelines.

    The Board of Trustees of the Poetry Society can be contacted via email: boardoftrustees.society@gmail.com

    Further Poetry Society news can be found in the Media Room page of our website.

    Agenda
    The Poetry Society
    Company Number 00190736
    Extraordinary General Meeting

    To be held at on Friday 22nd July 2011 at 2.00pm in Lecture Theatre 1, The Royal College of Surgeons, 35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PE

    1. Welcome from the Chair (2.00pm)
    2. Apologies for absence (2.05pm)
    3. Opening response from the Chair to the requisition delivered to the Board and explanation about recent events at the Poetry Society (2.10pm)
    4. Questions from members (2.30pm)
    5. Outline and presentation of current and future strategy of The Poetry Society, ways of working more closely with and getting feedback from members (3.35pm)
    6. Questions from members (4.00pm)
    7. AOB (4.30pm)

    For information – text of requisition delivered to the Board of Trustees of The Poetry Society:

    We, the undersigned, constituting as we believe ten percent of the members of The Poetry Society, having learned of the resignation of the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the Director, the Finance Manager and the President of the Society, and in order to determine whether, in these extraordinary circumstances, the Board of Trustees has our continuing confidence, require the Board to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting, with a Chair elected by that meeting, to provide an explanation of the practices, policies and changes in policy which led to these resignations, and to answer questions on this matter from the floor. In order to avoid unreasonable expense to the Society, we require the Extraordinary General Meeting to be held before or instead of the General Meeting called by the Society at 2pm on 22 July 2011.

    EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL MEETING GUIDELINES

    Along with the agenda for the Extraordinary General Meeting, we include these brief guidelines on the General meeting, including proxy voting which we hope you will find helpful. These guidelines are taken from the Society’s Memorandum and Articles of Association which are posted on the Poetry Society’s website

    Why are we now calling this an Extraordinary General Meeting?

    The Memorandum and Articles of Association refer to General Meetings; we are advised that these are in fact one and the same thing.

    Who is entitled to attend the Extraordinary General Meeting?

    All fully paid up members, including Honorary Members, Patrons and Vice Presidents, can attend and speak at the Extraordinary General Meeting. Membership is not transferable.

    There are three wheelchair spaces available in the Lecture Hall; if you need a wheelchair space, please let Paul McGrane know – membership@poetrysociety.org.uk or by phoning 020 7420 9880.

    Who can chair the meeting?

    The Chair of the Board of Trustees should chair the meeting, as outlined in Article 38 of the Memorandum.

    The requisition asked the Board to appoint an independent Chair. As we have already said in a message to all members, the Memorandum and Articles of Association do not allow for this but we do believe it will be helpful to have an independent facilitator to take members’ questions during the meeting.

    Who can ask questions at the meeting?

    All fully-paid up members, Honorary Members, Patrons and Vice Presidents, can ask questions at the meeting. We intend that the meeting’s facilitator will take on this part of the meeting. Roving microphones will be available.

    Votes

    If a vote is taken at the meeting, every fully-paid up member has a vote and it is done by a show of hands.

    Either the Chair or at least two members present in person or by proxy can call for a poll if they feel it preferable to a show of hands, in which case voting cards will be available.

    Proxy votes

    If you can’t attend the meeting, you can appoint the Chair or a fully-paid up member to act as your proxy but you do have to complete the proxy form below:

    The Poetry Society
    22 Betterton Street
    London WC2H 9BX

    I/We, [NAME] of [ADDRESS] being a member/members of the above named Society, hereby appoint the Chair/member [NAME] as my/our proxy to vote in my/our name[s] and on my/our behalf at the General Meeting of the Society to be held on 22 July 2011 and at any adjournment thereof.

    Signed this day of 2011

    The proxy form must arrive at The Poetry Society’s office at least 48 hours before the meeting, i.e. by 2.00pm on Wednesday 20 July 2011. It can be posted to the address above or emailed to membership@poetrysociety.org.uk

    The Trustees are aware of the very deep feelings all Members have towards this, their Poetry Society. We too are Members and we share many of your concerns, which is why we called this General Meeting: to answer questions and to outline our very exciting future. It is our intention to be as open, as transparent as possible and to answer as many of your questions as possible. We realise there is a measure of grave frustration among many of you due to the silence of Trustees on recent events. As I am sure many of you will realise, there are some constraints on what we can say – these being dictated by legal process amongst other things.

    We very much look forward to meeting you on 22nd July and we very much hope this will be the first of many occasions when we can share ideas, hear updates and to underline and enhance the value of the Poetry Society.

    Yours sincerely
    Laura Bamford
    Acting Chair on behalf of Trustees and Members of the Poetry Society

    With best wishes,
    Laura Bamford
    Acting Chair on behalf of Trustees of the Poetry Society
    _____________________________________
    8th July 2011 – From Kate Clanchy: Friday Update

    (To requisitionists -)

    For the family of poets, the Poetry Society should be our dining table, where we meet and share or even disagree, but with openness and transparency.

    Imtiaz Dharker

    I am sad to see the hard work of the Poetry Society to honour its national mission suddenly put at risk; the secrecy which surrounds the unexplained changes at the top needs to be set aside so that Society members and the funding bodies can see what has happened and why, and the Society, answerable again to its constituents, return to the apparently successful route it was on.

    Michael Schmidt

    Hello,

    Yes, I know, I’ve used those quotes before. I’ve returned to them because I wanted to remind myself, and you, of the principles which started this campaign two weeks ago and drew so many people together. I still believe our question – what happened? – is worth asking, and that our principles of openness and straight-forward formal dealing are worth sticking to.

    The problem is, two weeks ago I also believed that Article 31 of the Poetry Society Constitution, which states:

    “Council shall call a general meeting on receiving a requisition to that effect, signed by at least 10% of the members having the right to attend and vote at general meetings. In default, the requisionists may call a general meeting in accordance with the Act.”

    would be adhered to. But it now seems very clear that the Board of Trustees has decided to ignore our requisition, and to deem it instead a ‘suggestion’ towards their meeting which will be only about the future, not the past. This is unconstitutional. It is probably unlawful. I have written a letter to that effect with the generous help of a lawyer which I attach below. The letter mentions the possibility of deeming that the Board has refused a meeting, and holding our own. We could do this: I think we can all imagine how unsatisfactory that would be.

    In the end, the constitution has exploitable grey areas because it was constructed on the assumption that both Trustees and members would act in good faith. We gathered our requisition freely and honourably, and served it in that spirit and in fetching wheelbarrow to our Trustees, but the Board can evade us by acting dishonourably and in bad faith. People use ‘disappointment’ in contexts like this too freely, sarcastically, meaning they have scored a point: but I am truly disappointed by what has happened, because I really believed in better. I also truly understand another term which is often used rhetorically: what it means to have ‘no confidence’ in the Trustees.

    I’m not sure what to do in the longer term, but I hope we can freely debate it. We can be sure there will be a meeting, and that, whatever the stated agenda, we do have the right to vote and to raise motions from the floor. In the short term, I would urge you, if you have not done so already, and even if you have, to write to express your thoughts to the Board of Trustees at boardoftrustees.society@gmail.com I feel the pressure of 458 people in my INBOX, the clamour of all your super-articulate voices. Please, let the Board hear it too. To quote William Carlos Williams one more time, we are not only large, but contain multitudes.

    Please use our website, which gets better and better, at

    http://thepoetrysocietyuk.wordpress.com -

    Kate
    —————————————-
    Dear Laura Bamford,

    I am writing to you in your capacity as acting chair of the Board of Trustees of the Poetry Society. I ask that this letter be brought to the attention of all board members.

    As you know, I speak on behalf of a large number of the ordinary members of the Society, including some of the most respected and distinguished practitioners in poetry. We have delivered to the Society a requisition calling for an Extraordinary General Meeting. You appear, based on the tone of your responses, to regard our action as one of making suggestions to the Society or indicating what we wish to do. That is only part of what we have done and not the most significant part. I do not encourage you to spend the Society’s precious resources on legal advice in this connection, as it should be clear to you that our requisition (as its name suggests) legally requires the board to do something, namely call an EGM for the purpose set out in the requisition. You have not responded on this issue. The Society’s own meeting cannot replace ours. We are content for them to happen at the same time and place, but that our meeting necessarily takes precedence.

    The reality of the situation is that a substantial body of the membership is calling for explanations of what has been going on and why there have been so many resignations is and departures. Unless the society makes it clear in advance that it recognises that the meeting on 22nd July is the meeting called for by the requisitionists and that, in response to the requisition, the board intends to provide at the start of the meeting the full explanation called for, we will have no choice but to regard our requisition as unanswered. That would entitle us to arrange our own meeting at the expense of the Society. That is something we would do only with the greatest reluctance.

    I do hope that you and the board are now sensing the strength of feeling among the membership. The board is going to have to work very hard if it is to regain trust – if it is not already too late. I implore you to recognise that it is in the best interests of the society for the matter raised in the requisition to be given a full airing under impartial chairmanship.

    Yours sincerely

    Kate Clanchy on behalf of the requisitionists

Trackbacks

  1. Poets on twitter: the EGM, live | Baroque in Hackney
  2. The Poetry Society Members’ Site « The Poetry Society
  3. Updates « The Poetry Society
  4. Welcome to the Poetry Society Members’ Site « The Poetry Society

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