It was in 2004 that I took a more active interest in The Poetry Society of which I had been a member for some years.
It had long seemed to me that most of the new pieces that were published as ‘poetry’ in the Society’s quarterly Newsletter and in its magazine Poetry Review were not truly poetry at all.
I attended the Society’s AGM in November. At this time the Chair of the Council of Trustees was Ruth Padel, and the Society was in the process of revising and modernising its constitution. I drew the attention of the meeting to the fact that whereas in the Society’s original constitution its ‘Objects’ are stated as,
To advance public education in
the study and use of poetry,
in its Trustees’ Report of that year it was stated that,
The Poetry Society exists to promote
contemporary poetry and poets in Britain.
* * *
Early in 2005 I determined to promote my ideas as to the true nature and definition of poetry more widely, with a website, and by founding something I called The True English (Poetry) Party.
I then wrote a short paper, a foundation document, ‘On English Poetry and Poems’
This paper went out to many. It was sent, of course, to Ms Padel and to each Trustee of the Poetry Society, and to its Director, in a letter that also announced the intended True English (Poetry) Party. I sought their opinion on the paper, and repeatedly asked for the Society’s own working definitions of ‘poetry’ and ‘poem’.
Nothing was forthcoming; until one of the Trustees wrote me a personal letter that contained this statement:
There is poetry in everything we say or do and if
something is presented to me as a poem by its
creator, or by an observer, I accept that some-
thing as a poem.
I replied that I thought this statement fatuous, and I told the Society’s Chair, Ms Padel, so. She then responded herself:
As for ‘what poetry is’: in The Use of Poetry
T.S. Eliot said, ‘We learn what poetry is – if we
ever learn – by reading it.’
I replied that I found this beside the point.
These matters may be reviewed in detail in the Archive of The True English (Poetry) Party by clicking here
In July 2006 I went to the Ledbury Poetry Festival. I had attended some events the previous year.
I advised the Festival Director, Dr Charles Bennett, that I would be making a visit and would be politely ‘demonstrating’ as The True English (Poetry) Party, with placards and a tin
whistle. I had tickets to several events including one presented by Ruth Padel and others.
I went to Ledbury with my Agent, Ms Dorli Nauta, who is also the Other Officer of The True English (Poetry) Party. We provided a colourful spectacle that subsequently led to our appearing on the Festival’s website masthead as ‘revellers’.
This launch of the Party, which seems to have caused Ruth Padel much consternation, may be viewed on another page by clicking here