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This item is taken from PN Review 202, Volume 38 Number 2, November - December 2011.

Letter from Silas Gunn
Poetry and Motions

Sir: I have just perused your editorial in PNR 201 and, if my memory is not playing me false, I think you were briefly a member of the General Council of the Poetry Society in the 1970s. Of course, as you delicately hint, the current row was brought on by disagreements over Poetry Review, as were the rows in 1949 and in 1976. All of them resulted in the membership or factions of the membership seeking a coup, the most successful being the first when Muriel Spark was summarily dismissed as editor of Poetry Review following a putsch led by Dr Marie Stopes, whose poetry I do not know, but whose other work I am acquainted with after finding a manual on intimacy with one's partner in my paternal grandfather's effects after his death. Dr Stopes was subsequently on the General Council, briefly making a final appearance at the AGM in May 1950. The Report of the AGM in the July-August 1950 issue of Poetry Review records that she 'spoke to her motions', but on being overruled on the second, when she attempted to amend her motion without the requisite twenty-eight days' notice, she left the meeting, so that she could not speak on her third. All her motions were eminently sensible and were adopted in some form later, but by all accounts she was overbearing and bossy and had made enemies. Her exit foreshadowed the exits of the British Poetry Revival Group on the General Council in 1976, when they made what they thought was a strategic withdrawal, and the shambolic resignations of the current Trustees. Like Dr Stopes, they discovered nobody wished their return.

I attended performances of Bob Cobbing from the British Poetry Revival when he was alive and have had the privilege of reading the work of Alan Jenkins, who was one of the Trustees who resigned in the latest teapot tempest, but I have yet to find a parallel in their work with that of Dr Stopes. Perhaps, if I place recordings of Cobbing's explorations of the roots of language and Jenkins' ruminations on social mores at the end of the twentieth century in a box with the more perfervid of the love letters I received from the amoureuses of my youth and one or two extremely private trinkets, my appalled grandchildren will draw wholly misleading conclusions.


This item is taken from PN Review 202, Volume 38 Number 2, November - December 2011.

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