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Poetry Book Society


Poetry Book Society fights Arts Council England funding withdrawal

The tiny Poetry Book SocietySpecialist book club founded by T S Eliot in 1953, which aims to offer the best new poetry published in the UK and Ireland. Members buy at 25% discount. The PBS has a handsome new website at is fighting back against the Art's Council's shocking decision to remove its funding completely in one year's time.

Carol Ann Duffy, the UK Poet Laureate, was widely quoted in the press: "This news goes beyond shocking and touches the realms of the disgusting. The PBS was established by T S Eliot in 1953 and is one of poetry's most sacred churches with an influence and reach far beyond its membership. This fatal cut is a national shame and a scandal and I urge everyone who cares about poetry to join the PBS as a matter of urgency."

Director Chris HolifieldManaging director of WritersServices; spent working life in publishing,employed by everything from global corporations to start-ups; track record includes: editorial director of Sphere Books, publishing director of The Bodley Head, publishing director for start-up of upmarket book club, The Softback Preview, editorial director of Britain’s biggest book club group, BCA, and, most recently, deputy MD and publisher of Cassell & Co. She is also currently the Director of the Poetry Book Society; During all of this time aware of problems faced by writers, as publishing changed from idiosyncratic cottage industry, 'occupation for gentlemen', into corporate business of today. Writers encountered increasing difficulty in getting books edited or published. Authors create the books which are the raw material for the whole business. She believes it is time to bring them back to centre stage. went on Radio 4’s Front Row on Wednesday to protest against the loss of funding. In the meantime the PBS is getting a huge response to its appeal to poetry lovers, poets and its supporters across the country to support its cause. Holifield said:

‘The PBS has come a long way since T S Eliot and friends first set out our statement of intent in 1953 ‘to propagate the art of poetry' with the support of the Arts Council. We are stunned to have lost our funding after ACE’s support over many years, which threatens our continued existence as an organisation which supports poetry and poetry readers through the Poetry Book Society itself, our two websites and the T S Eliot Prize.’

The Poetry Book Society was set up by the Arts Council in 1953 at the suggestion of Sir Stephen Spender, and T S Eliot and Sir Basil Blackwell were original directors of the book club for poetry. Philip Larkin was Chair of the PBS in the early 1980s.

The PBS Poet Selectors choose a poetry collection every quarter which is sent to its members, with other recommendations. Last year it launched two new websites for the PBS itself to sell poetry books and CDs. It also runs the T S Eliot Prize, the most distinguished annual prize for poetry. The Readings by shortlisted poets, including Seamus Heaney, attracted the largest ever audience for poetry at the Royal Festival Hall in January of this year.

Please help

The PBS website says:

Despite Wednesday's shocking announcement about the termination of our regular funding in a year's time, there is still plenty that can be done:

Please let Arts Council England know the extent to which their decision will affect you as a poetry lover. You can do this by emailing the Arts Council's Chair, Dame Liz Forgan,(, and please do copy us in (

You can make a difference immediately by buying a membership or a book or, if you haven't already, by recommending PBS membership to a friend. Your continued support will help us to survive.

Finally, we have set up a petition online here. Please take the time to sign this and pass it on to your friends. Let's send a clear message to the Arts Council that the PBS and its members are absolutely vital if there is to be an audience for poetry in the future.’

Poetry Book Society

Poetry Bookshop Online

Launch of PBS's new websites