News

Kinsella joins Oswald in withdrawing from T S Eliot Award

A second poet shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize for Poetry has withdrawn from the
award, citing ethical issues over sponsor Aurum Funds.

Australian John Kinsella, shortlisted for collection Armour (Picador), praised as his most spiritual work to date, said he withdrew from the prize yesterday for ethical reasons. Faber poet Alice Oswald withdrew from the prize shortlist earlier this week.

"I support Alice," he said. "My politics and ethics are such that I can't accept money from such a source. I fully understand why the Poetry Book Society has looked elsewhere for funding, given the horrendous way they were treated, but as an anticapitalist in full-on form, that is my position."

Kinsella added that it was not any particular activities of Aurum's that he had a difficulty with, but the general principle of having the investment company as sponsor. "Hedge funds are at the very pointy end of capitalism, if I can put it that way," he said.

Oswald withdrew her book Memorial from the prize saying she was "uncomfortable about the fact that Aurum Funds, an investment company which exclusively manages funds of hedge funds, is sponsoring the administration".

Poetry Book Society vice-chair Desmond Clarke defended the organisation's sponsorship. "I respect the decision of Alice and John to withdraw as it's their right, but I think it is misguided," he said. "All our pension funds use investment managers such as Aurum, and Aurum's clients include the pension funds of the public sector and not for profit organisations. For some time financial institutions such as Man, EFG and Duncan Lawrie, the private bank that supports Arvon, have sponsored prizes, literary festivals and competitions."


The withdrawals leave only John Burnside, poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Leontia Flynn, David Harsent, Esther Morgan, Daljit Nagra, Sean O'Brien and Bernard O'Donoghue in contention for the £15,000 prize, due to be awarded in January.

The Poetry Book Society, which has lost its Arts Council regularly funded status, announced in October that it had obtained "substantial" three-year sponsorship from Aurum Funds to support the award's management costs.

There is no association between Aurum Funds and Aurum the publisher.


 

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The Poetry Book Society has made a real mistake with this, not long after we all jumped to support them by taking up membership and encouraging others to do the same. This puts publishers like me on the spot as well as authors because we'll have to ask poets if they want us to put them forward to be considered as a PBS Choice each season. If selected they are considered for the T S Eliot prize, and clearly some or many of them might not want that. I'm not sure if publishers will opt out of the PBS selections, or if they would give individual authors the choice of being submitted each season or not.

It's also useful that other sponsors and literary projects and awards are being cited as an example of why this was considered acceptable. This discussion will lead to the poets who want to distance themselves from such sponsorship to choose which prizes, literary festivals and projects they want their names associated with. It will make us all look more closely at how our personal investments are being used too.

The self-righteousness is a little disheartening. Publishers, as a business, rely on financial people for investments. When they want to support poetry, how can this be bad? It brings people together in ways that only can be helpful.

As Dr. Johnson said, "There is nothing quite as innocent as a man in pursuit of money." It is the power players who want to "change" what we all do who are the problem.

Or again, Oscar Wilde, "Rudeness is not doing what you want; it is requiring other people to do so."

The self-righteousness attack is the one often used to quieten people who want to stick to their principles. It's a strong way of making people feel they should shut up. Nobody wants to be a goody goody so it's very effective.

Giving up on one of poetry's most prestigious prizes is a massive step - I think it's unprecendented - and so I believe it displays more than self righteousness.

I don't think it would be hard to find ethical investors for such a major prize.

Poets work in the hardest form of writing, and it doesn't pay. So I don't think that the idea of having to rely on financial people involved in hedge funds will convince them.

But these anti-capitalists were otherwise happy to attend the readings at the Shell-supported Southbank Centre. And hasn't Mr Kinsella edited a book for Penguin Australia, whose parent company Pearson - until very recently - counted amongst its significant shareholders the Gaddafi government?

Good decisions Alice Oswald and John Kinsella.
That's narky carping Stuart Strong. These poets are taking a stand NOW not some years ago.

Some questions for AO and JK:
Why pull out now? Why even allow yourself to forward? Aurum were Aurum and a hedge fund in October when the shortlist was announced?

Is there such a thing as clean money? All money circulating in a capitalist system is 'tainted' isn't it?

Look at the consequences:
More bad publicity for poets
These 2 have deprived 2 other poets of a chance at this prize. Perhaps having won once it was easy for AO to pull out.
Risk the future of the prize and opportunities for other poets.

Was the money she took when she won the prize, pure, clean money?

There is a whiff of piety about this and/or naivety.

Poets don't put themselves forward for this, so it's not a question of 'why did they go for it in the first place'. The publishers would have put them forward at the time of their launches to be considered as a Poetry Book Society choice or recommendation, and if selected as the Poetry Book Society seasonal choice they would go forward to the shortlist.

Publishers can also submit other authors later, so the poets didn't put themselves forward. Publishers often don't tell authors which ones have been submitted and which haven't because it can cause bad feeling.

The idea that Alice Oswald isn't losing much by doing this, as some have said, just because she won it once before, isn't right. Not only does she lose the chance of winning this award, but also publishers may not want to risk submitting her books for other major awards.

There's a risk she could walk out on other prizes when shortlisted, and on submissions forms for the big prizes publishers have to pledge to pay thousands of pounds if any of the authors they put forward reach the shortlist stage. This money is for the promotional tour. I'm sure Alice Oswald and John Kinsella know the consequences of what they're doing, and they know they lose a lot by taking this step.

They are putting themselves out of the running for more than one prize. They also put themselves in a difficult position with their fellow poets on the shortlist and the judges.

I don't agree that this is bad publicity for poets. It's good to see poets taking a stand. Is it bad publicity for journalists when they write about what they believe and take a stand? Why shouldn't poets do the same?

I totally agree with Adele. What are we if we don't have principles? That doesn't mean it's easy and certainly places one in perpetual conflict with everyday life choices, but we should applaud people who take a stand of this sort because it obliges us to examine our own actions.

Do not most people directly or indirectly use investment managers such as Aurum? Do not the high street banks, JK's Cambridge college, charities, local authorities, our company or individual pension funds, insurance policies etc hedge to protect their assets? Do not some people choose to invest in gold or buy property to hedge against inflation? Are we expected to have nothing to do with responsible and strictly regulated investment managers but keep any funds under the mattress? And must we refuse to submit novels for the Man Booker prize, stories for the Sunday Times/EFG competition and attend some literary festivals? The real news story is the outstanding poetry collections of the eight shortlisted poets for the TSE prize.

sorry, it just doesn't make sense. The press release announcing the shortlisted poets and Aurum's sponsorship is dated 20 October, I have it on my desk. Why did Alice Oswald wait so long before she pulled out? All the poets would have been informed ahead of the press release going out in October. She could have refused at that point. In doing so another poet could have gone onto the list. The net result of Alice's actions?
1. Two other poets have been deprived of taking part in the prize
2. The funding for the PBS to support the T S Eliot prize must now be at risk, so the prize might disappear.
3. Yet again, poets shown to be naive. Another negative story about poets in the media at the very time of year when poetry gets its best coverage.

If Alice is so squemish about investment does she not have a bank account? Money in biscuit tin under bed? All money circulating in the capitalist system is 'tainted' you can't ring fence money and make it pure. At least this hedge fund was spreading some around. Mother Theresa famously would take money from anywhere because she could do good things with it.

What AO has done seems to have no regard for her fellow poets, the PBS and the poetry world in general.

But what does Alice believe in? It seems that she believes that, per se, all Hedge funds are evil. How does she know this?

She took the prize money in 2002 and you can be sure that money wasn't 'clean' and it's highly likely that it can from some kind of investment fund that is managed.

Making a stand would be to articulate clearly just what is wrong with Aurum, she hasn't done that. She's made an assumption that all bankers, all hedge funds are unethical.

Where does she keep her money?

Obviously the artists preferred when this price was paid by the tax payers. Better to be rewarded by forced contributions from the strained producing classes, than by a voluntary contribution from a company, which I'm sure the artists wouldn't hesitate to call socially irresponsible and encourage to 'put something back into the community'. Odd...

I assume these guys don't protest that the tax revenues raised from Aurum Capital partly goes to funding for their fellow poets (I assume these guys are self funded after establishing themselves while on state funding), so they can pursue their hobby while others work for a living.

We don't necessarily prefer it one way of the other, Nick. Sometimes it's best to do without. In her article in The Guardian, Oswald says she didn't sign the petition to get the funding back for the Poetry Book Society because she felt there were more needy causes.

I've been criticised for raising the question of whether the PBS can survive without funding, but I raised it as finances are at the centre of this. I hope they can survive on the income they get from bookselling if they are ever without sponsorship or funding again.

For others, including some poetry publishers, the loss of funding can mean not being able to survive because poetry can't pay for itself. At that point people would need to ask whether they find Arts Council funding or private sponsorship acceptable. I think sponsorship is a good way to go forward, although I decide whether or not to accept a sponsor.

There are plenty of poets who feel taxpayers' money should go to other causes rather than poetry, especially in times when there's serious poverty visible to all of us.

Maybe it's time hedge funds are more critical with what 'good' causes they support. Sponsoring a prize which nominates openly anti-capitalist artists seems unwise. Kinsella probably enjoys i-pads, cars, central heating, cheap food, television, micro wave ovens and mobile phones as much as the rest of us. Everybody likes progress. Kinsella just doesn't like how we got here.

The anti-capitalist artists will eliminate themselves from the prize by asking their publishers not to put them forward to be selected by the PBS. The selection process will change because of that, because not everybody will take part.

This does change my position as a publisher because I will respect individual choice in our poets and put them forward to be considered as the seasonal PBS choice only if they want that. I can't just take it for granted any more that they would all want to be submitted each season as the book of the season.

It's certainly problematic, but I've been told off already for saying it seemed like a mistake so I won't say that again! It can clearly be done without anti capitalist poets being shortlisted. Aurum, and other hedge funds, would have to decide if the publicity is what they expected for their investment.

Also, it's not specifically about anti-capitalism. Alice Oswald withdrew because the sponsor only invests in hedge funds, if I've understood right. It muddies the water a little if we start thinking any commercial sponsor would have been questioned.Everybody who uses a bank can start to feel insulted, but it was more specific than that. I do believe sponsorship is a good way to go for artistic projects.

Agree, sponsorship funding is the right approach. And of course artists should be critical of who they receive sponsorship from as well as sponsors looking critically at who they support.
But I have no choice in paying my taxes and no control over what they use the money for. As well as Kinsella not wanting to receive money from the hedge fund industry, I don't want to sponsor a prize that could go to an anti-capitalist - voluntarily or via my taxes.
Kinsella doesn't want to be shortlisted now butI presume he had no objections in the past, where my tax was funding the prize. I didn't have the luxury of objecting in the past, at least he has that option.

The Poetry Book Society has made a real mistake with this, not long after we all jumped to support them by taking up membership and encouraging others to do the same. This puts publishers like me on the spot as well as authors because we'll have to ask poets if they want us to put them forward to be considered as a PBS Choice each season. If selected they are considered for the T S Eliot prize, and clearly some or many of them might not want that. I'm not sure if publishers will opt out of the PBS selections, or if they would give individual authors the choice of being submitted each season or not.

It's also useful that other sponsors and literary projects and awards are being cited as an example of why this was considered acceptable. This discussion will lead to the poets who want to distance themselves from such sponsorship to choose which prizes, literary festivals and projects they want their names associated with. It will make us all look more closely at how our personal investments are being used too.

The self-righteousness is a little disheartening. Publishers, as a business, rely on financial people for investments. When they want to support poetry, how can this be bad? It brings people together in ways that only can be helpful.

As Dr. Johnson said, "There is nothing quite as innocent as a man in pursuit of money." It is the power players who want to "change" what we all do who are the problem.

Or again, Oscar Wilde, "Rudeness is not doing what you want; it is requiring other people to do so."

The self-righteousness attack is the one often used to quieten people who want to stick to their principles. It's a strong way of making people feel they should shut up. Nobody wants to be a goody goody so it's very effective.

Giving up on one of poetry's most prestigious prizes is a massive step - I think it's unprecendented - and so I believe it displays more than self righteousness.

I don't think it would be hard to find ethical investors for such a major prize.

Poets work in the hardest form of writing, and it doesn't pay. So I don't think that the idea of having to rely on financial people involved in hedge funds will convince them.

But these anti-capitalists were otherwise happy to attend the readings at the Shell-supported Southbank Centre. And hasn't Mr Kinsella edited a book for Penguin Australia, whose parent company Pearson - until very recently - counted amongst its significant shareholders the Gaddafi government?

Good decisions Alice Oswald and John Kinsella.
That's narky carping Stuart Strong. These poets are taking a stand NOW not some years ago.

Some questions for AO and JK:
Why pull out now? Why even allow yourself to forward? Aurum were Aurum and a hedge fund in October when the shortlist was announced?

Is there such a thing as clean money? All money circulating in a capitalist system is 'tainted' isn't it?

Look at the consequences:
More bad publicity for poets
These 2 have deprived 2 other poets of a chance at this prize. Perhaps having won once it was easy for AO to pull out.
Risk the future of the prize and opportunities for other poets.

Was the money she took when she won the prize, pure, clean money?

There is a whiff of piety about this and/or naivety.

Poets don't put themselves forward for this, so it's not a question of 'why did they go for it in the first place'. The publishers would have put them forward at the time of their launches to be considered as a Poetry Book Society choice or recommendation, and if selected as the Poetry Book Society seasonal choice they would go forward to the shortlist.

Publishers can also submit other authors later, so the poets didn't put themselves forward. Publishers often don't tell authors which ones have been submitted and which haven't because it can cause bad feeling.

The idea that Alice Oswald isn't losing much by doing this, as some have said, just because she won it once before, isn't right. Not only does she lose the chance of winning this award, but also publishers may not want to risk submitting her books for other major awards.

There's a risk she could walk out on other prizes when shortlisted, and on submissions forms for the big prizes publishers have to pledge to pay thousands of pounds if any of the authors they put forward reach the shortlist stage. This money is for the promotional tour. I'm sure Alice Oswald and John Kinsella know the consequences of what they're doing, and they know they lose a lot by taking this step.

They are putting themselves out of the running for more than one prize. They also put themselves in a difficult position with their fellow poets on the shortlist and the judges.

sorry, it just doesn't make sense. The press release announcing the shortlisted poets and Aurum's sponsorship is dated 20 October, I have it on my desk. Why did Alice Oswald wait so long before she pulled out? All the poets would have been informed ahead of the press release going out in October. She could have refused at that point. In doing so another poet could have gone onto the list. The net result of Alice's actions?
1. Two other poets have been deprived of taking part in the prize
2. The funding for the PBS to support the T S Eliot prize must now be at risk, so the prize might disappear.
3. Yet again, poets shown to be naive. Another negative story about poets in the media at the very time of year when poetry gets its best coverage.

If Alice is so squemish about investment does she not have a bank account? Money in biscuit tin under bed? All money circulating in the capitalist system is 'tainted' you can't ring fence money and make it pure. At least this hedge fund was spreading some around. Mother Theresa famously would take money from anywhere because she could do good things with it.

What AO has done seems to have no regard for her fellow poets, the PBS and the poetry world in general.

I don't agree that this is bad publicity for poets. It's good to see poets taking a stand. Is it bad publicity for journalists when they write about what they believe and take a stand? Why shouldn't poets do the same?

But what does Alice believe in? It seems that she believes that, per se, all Hedge funds are evil. How does she know this?

She took the prize money in 2002 and you can be sure that money wasn't 'clean' and it's highly likely that it can from some kind of investment fund that is managed.

Making a stand would be to articulate clearly just what is wrong with Aurum, she hasn't done that. She's made an assumption that all bankers, all hedge funds are unethical.

Where does she keep her money?

I totally agree with Adele. What are we if we don't have principles? That doesn't mean it's easy and certainly places one in perpetual conflict with everyday life choices, but we should applaud people who take a stand of this sort because it obliges us to examine our own actions.

Do not most people directly or indirectly use investment managers such as Aurum? Do not the high street banks, JK's Cambridge college, charities, local authorities, our company or individual pension funds, insurance policies etc hedge to protect their assets? Do not some people choose to invest in gold or buy property to hedge against inflation? Are we expected to have nothing to do with responsible and strictly regulated investment managers but keep any funds under the mattress? And must we refuse to submit novels for the Man Booker prize, stories for the Sunday Times/EFG competition and attend some literary festivals? The real news story is the outstanding poetry collections of the eight shortlisted poets for the TSE prize.

Obviously the artists preferred when this price was paid by the tax payers. Better to be rewarded by forced contributions from the strained producing classes, than by a voluntary contribution from a company, which I'm sure the artists wouldn't hesitate to call socially irresponsible and encourage to 'put something back into the community'. Odd...

I assume these guys don't protest that the tax revenues raised from Aurum Capital partly goes to funding for their fellow poets (I assume these guys are self funded after establishing themselves while on state funding), so they can pursue their hobby while others work for a living.

We don't necessarily prefer it one way of the other, Nick. Sometimes it's best to do without. In her article in The Guardian, Oswald says she didn't sign the petition to get the funding back for the Poetry Book Society because she felt there were more needy causes.

I've been criticised for raising the question of whether the PBS can survive without funding, but I raised it as finances are at the centre of this. I hope they can survive on the income they get from bookselling if they are ever without sponsorship or funding again.

For others, including some poetry publishers, the loss of funding can mean not being able to survive because poetry can't pay for itself. At that point people would need to ask whether they find Arts Council funding or private sponsorship acceptable. I think sponsorship is a good way to go forward, although I decide whether or not to accept a sponsor.

There are plenty of poets who feel taxpayers' money should go to other causes rather than poetry, especially in times when there's serious poverty visible to all of us.

Maybe it's time hedge funds are more critical with what 'good' causes they support. Sponsoring a prize which nominates openly anti-capitalist artists seems unwise. Kinsella probably enjoys i-pads, cars, central heating, cheap food, television, micro wave ovens and mobile phones as much as the rest of us. Everybody likes progress. Kinsella just doesn't like how we got here.

The anti-capitalist artists will eliminate themselves from the prize by asking their publishers not to put them forward to be selected by the PBS. The selection process will change because of that, because not everybody will take part.

This does change my position as a publisher because I will respect individual choice in our poets and put them forward to be considered as the seasonal PBS choice only if they want that. I can't just take it for granted any more that they would all want to be submitted each season as the book of the season.

It's certainly problematic, but I've been told off already for saying it seemed like a mistake so I won't say that again! It can clearly be done without anti capitalist poets being shortlisted. Aurum, and other hedge funds, would have to decide if the publicity is what they expected for their investment.

Also, it's not specifically about anti-capitalism. Alice Oswald withdrew because the sponsor only invests in hedge funds, if I've understood right. It muddies the water a little if we start thinking any commercial sponsor would have been questioned.Everybody who uses a bank can start to feel insulted, but it was more specific than that. I do believe sponsorship is a good way to go for artistic projects.

Agree, sponsorship funding is the right approach. And of course artists should be critical of who they receive sponsorship from as well as sponsors looking critically at who they support.
But I have no choice in paying my taxes and no control over what they use the money for. As well as Kinsella not wanting to receive money from the hedge fund industry, I don't want to sponsor a prize that could go to an anti-capitalist - voluntarily or via my taxes.
Kinsella doesn't want to be shortlisted now butI presume he had no objections in the past, where my tax was funding the prize. I didn't have the luxury of objecting in the past, at least he has that option.