Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Battle Royale?

The following post is based on sources that Eyewear, as a journalistic blogger, will not disclose.  It is expressed in the interests of transparency, and without prejudice or malice.  The sad news is, the Poetry Society crisis is getting worse, not better.  As the AGM nears, the Board of Trustees, feeling embattled, is entrenching their position.  They view the "10%" - the over 400 Requisitioners - as opponents, not simply members with a legitimate concern - and are allegedly trying to secure their own proxies and votes, to block any motions of no-confidence from the floor (the membership); there is fear among some Trustees that they may be replaced at the AGM.

Meanwhile, some members naturally want to to put motions forward that would compel the Board to disclose what happened at certain secret meetings in spring 2011, when the Director was not included in meetings that led to the position of Editor of Poetry Review being moved from under her directorship, to being an equal, or even superior, position,  This secret move, which was not mentioned to the wider membership, apparently led to the Director's resignation, and the board allegedly immediately went after her legally.  What is at stake is that the Board of Trustees - not one single individual - seems to have acted in a way that contravenes the Poetry Society's own constitution.

The problem for the AGM on July 22nd, is that the current Board is likely to want to block any moves to bring these actions to light, to avoid censure, or worse.  The 10% or others are likely to exert maximum (legitimate) democratic force at the meeting.  This will not be pretty if the Trustees resist, and the meeting may break down.  The problem is compounded by the fact that it seems that this is a "this town isn't big enough for the two of us" situation - either the Editor or the Director's original position will prevail - since they present diametrically opposed viewpoints for the future direction of the Poetry Society.  It is not clear to me why it is a given that having the Editor reporting directly to the Board is a bad thing; nor is it inherently wicked to want to protect the editorial quality of the Poetry Review from government-funding prerogatives (this could lead to it being watered down, say, by 50% amateur poetry, or performance poetry - I am playing devil's advocate here).

However, and unfortunately, whatever ways this debate might have been won or lost, the proper protocols do not seem to have been followed.  As far as I can tell, as of this morning, the main issue is a legal one, of procedure.  I call upon the Board to co-operate with the membership, and put us al out of our misery, in such a way that perhaps a major struggle can be avoided at the end of next week.  Otherwise, there will be damage done to the reputation of the Poetry Society.  I also hope that the group of poets working with the so-called 10% will pursue their legitimate concerns in an open fashion, and let all of us who signed on to their petition in the red wheelbarrow know what their questions will be before the meeting on the 22nd.  No surprises is a good motto for this grass-roots movement.

Already, there is a risk of the Arts Council withdrawing financial support, and the Poetry Society bankrupting itself, by spending its reserves on legal costs.  How such a bunker mentality developed is anyone's guess, but this is a tragedy for many brilliant people who are being caught up in heightened emotions and drama.  Poets are not Murdoch.  Pull back from the brink.  As we know from Watergate, it is the cover-up, not the deed, that leads to disgrace in the end.  [If any of this is incorrect, please let me know and I will amend or delete it].  I hope this post is read as non-partisan.  I know I speak for many members of the Poetry Society when I say there is nothing sadder than seeing the rebel angels (the poets) falling out among themselves.
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