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This report is taken from PN Review 105, Volume 22 Number 1, September - October 1995.

Getting on in the Poetry Scene Virginia Rounding

I recently rejoined the Poetry Society, somewhat against my better judgment but prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt -maybe there was something I had missed during my last stint of membership. So far I have received a letter, a membership card and an issue of a newsletter called Poetry News which advertises itself as being of use to those who want to 'get on in the poetry scene'. If by this the Poetry Sodety means it wants to help its members become better poets, then the editors could do no better than draw their readers' attention to the following warning against literary 'hype', written by Virginia Woolf before such a word existed: 'There is no harm in it, so long as you take it as a joke, but once you believe in it, once you begin to take yourself seriously as a leader or as a follower, as a modern or as a conservative, then you become a self-conscious, biting, and scratching little animal whose work is not of the slightest value or importance to anybody.' (A Letter to a Young Poet, 1932)

Mrs Woolf goes on to give the following piece of advice which, if taken seriously, would dramatically cut down the amount of sifting editors have to do, make the Gregory Awards redundant at a stroke, and save a few rain forests into the bargain: 'And for heaven's sake, publish nothing before you are thirty. That, I am sure, is of very ...


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