Thursday, July 21, 2011

Arab Spring for Poetry?

It's been awhile since I've been here, and I've been following with a kind of awed fascination all the stuff that's happening both with News International and the Poetry Society. Both stories seem to be about openness and accountablity; does anyone for instance believe that Rupert Murdoch didn't know what was happening at the News of the World? If he didn't is that a sign that he's losing his grip? It's certainly a failure of good governance if he didn't.

The Poetry Society is not something I have very much to do with; but again it seems to be about people doing things behind closed doors: deals and counter-deals going on without the membership knowing about it. It may or may not turn out to be a storm in a tea-cup; but what does it say about a society's trustees if they can't even follow correct proceedure? I'm a trustee of an admitedly much smaller organisation, and unless I'm called in to do a specific job, I do not interfere in the daily running of that organisation. That's up to the staff, and as long as they are working for the best interests of the organisation, and are not doing anything illegal, it's not my job to decide to change policies.

Why the secrecy anyway? this is poetry, not the national debt.

Not that it doesn't confirm what a lot of people are thinking anyway: that the Poetry Society is just one more Establishment organ run for the benefit of a few at the top while the ordinary members get nothing much. Which is, of course, deeply unfair, as the Poetry Society do a lot of good work in educating the country about poetry. If Judith Palmer's claims that it represents 'all poetries' are somewhat exagerated (all mainstream poetries, maybe... which is a wide stream but not 'all poetries') it does nevertheless do a lot of good work.

Lots of Cassandras seem to be saying that the very existence of the organisation is under threat. I'm not sure I buy into that; but I certainly think that it should get its act together at the EGM tomorrow. It's a valuable organisation, as long as it remains open to its membership, not a closed shop for the poetry elite. Maybe we could have an Arab Spring for poetry as well...


Joshua Jones said...

"a kind of awed fascination" -- I feel the same. And I guess I can appreciate that PR and the Society in general are 'good for poetry' or whatever other positive justification is given for 'us' caring about them. But you're right, the 'all poetries' excludes a lot of poetry. A lot of the better poetry, for me at least. Sutherland/Brady and the like should be being featured in PR instead of (well, as well as) Chicago Review.

As for opennness (lack thereof) and corruption, I can't say it is surprising or even interesting. I honestly couldn't care less what happens to the Poetry Society. If it ceased to exist I don't imagine I'd even notice until prompted.

Thomas L. Vaultonburg said...

I don't know much about the British PS, but that won't stop me from commenting, because if it's anything like its American equivalents, it's just about who gets to be a pig at the public trough, while simultaneously completely feeling above the people who are footing the bill.