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This item is taken from PN Review 107, Volume 22 Number 3, January - February 1996.

Letters from Chris Meade, Gerald Denley
Getting On, Getting Off

For Virginia Rounding to write a rude article (PNR 105) about the Poetry Society's view of the world based on her reading of one issue of our newsletter seems perverse to me. Having decided to rejoin the Sodety, couldn't she wait to receive her first issue of Poetry Review before lambasting us for having no interest in the history and present state of British poetry? Anyone with a serious interest in contemporary poetry would surely agree that Poetry Review has proved itself to be an important journal which has covered all sides of the debate on the new interest in poetry. The Facade project was devised both to encourage children to write new work and to develop their appreciation of the original piece - we are well aware of the need to stimulate creative reading as well as writing, hence the focus on the reader in the Autumn issue of Poetry Review, linked to our Christmas Poetry catalogue which aimed to improve the sales of all kinds of poetry from Auden to Zephaniah. The Young Poetry Pack produced by us in collaboration with BBC Radio 4 contains wise words from the best poets as well as being attractive and fun.

Poetry News isn't 'advertised' as being about 'getting on in the poetry scene'; the phrase was used in one introductory letter to new members because it does indeed contain news of competitions, readings and opportunities for poets. What's wrong with that? Is it really so shocking that the Poetry Sodety promotes contemporary poetry and encourages young people to write it? Does this really constitute proof that we don't give a damn about the 'singing line', that we are self-satisfied hype merchants with no concern for the artform we work so hard to promote?

We still have many faults, but I hope the Poetry Society has now proved itself to be accessible, purposeful and intelligent. That's why our membership has risen by 60% in eighteen months. Constructive critidsm is welcome as we are constantly seeking to improve all our services, but we deserve better than Ms Rounding's gripes about declining poetic standards these days.

The Poetry Society



In her letter to PNR 106 Mary Wylie describes true poetry as poetry which 'raises the hair on the scalp with its beauty, strangeness, universality, timelessness and spacelessness.' This kind of poetry need not be written down and printed in a book. Ludwig Wittgenstein seemed to have these qualities when I heard him 'lecturing' in his rooms in Trinity College, Cambridge in 1946. 'Lecturing' is not really the right word because he struggled with philosophical problems together with those closest to him. His voice had a slight German accent, but his speech was so hypnotic that I was unable to remember hardly anything he said. It was if I had been absorbed into another dimension.

Years later I read his 'Philosophical Investigations' and 'On Certainty' which are taken from his notes and written in the form of aphorisms. Reading these aphoristic sayings I was at once transported to Trinity College in the October of 1946 so that each sentence thrilled me, yet I was at a loss to know whether I had gained any knowledge from this reading. Only by meditating on his writing, picturing him in that crowded room in Trinity, and treating his work like poetry could I have just a glimmer of understanding.


This item is taken from PN Review 107, Volume 22 Number 3, January - February 1996.

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