Friday, 15 July 2011

Arts Funding Cuts

There have been a number of severe funding cuts to poetry orgnisations in the UK since the coalition government was elected. As a result, there is a high profile campaign to save the Poetry Book Society, which chooses 4 books per year and recommends a number of other to readers. It also provides a poetry bookshop and produces a quarterly newsletter.

Notwithstanding Carol-Ann Duffy's participation in the campaign, I am less bothered about cuts to the PBS than I am to a couple of small publishing houses: especially Arc. This concentrates on bringing foreign poets in translation to the attention of UK readers. Its list includes the only comprehensive roundup of poetry being published in eastern Europe at the moment. Its loss or diminution will be hugely felt because it does something that no one else does, so the cut seems to stem from ignorance or negligence, particularly as the overall budget from the Arts Council to literature is increasing.

In contrast, the PBS rarely highlights the most interesting collections (I was a member for a year and I learnt to dread its dreary offerings) and adds little to the service provided by poetry prizes (like the Costa or Forward) which highlight collections to the small number of people who constitute the poetry buying public. Amazon generally provides books cheaper too. The internet allows poetry lovers to discover poetry from small independent publishers or access new work free online. There seems to me to be very little persuasive argument which can be brought to bear to save the PBS. Hopefully, its disappearance will tear open a little more space for more ambitious and innovative work to appear. The sort of stuff you can hear in the PBS's sister organisation, the Poetry cafe, in London, every Tuesday, in fact.

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