Poetry Book Society cuts "will hit sales"

Poetry Book Society cuts "will hit sales"

Poetry publishers have united en masse to demand the Arts Council overturn its decision to stop funding the Poetry Book Society, saying the demise of the organisation would lead to a "considerable loss of sales".

A total of 43 publishers, including Parisa Ebrahimi at Chatto & Windus, Dan Franklin at Jonathan Cape, Gaby Morgan of Macmillan Children's Books, Neil Astley of Bloodaxe and Michael Schmidt of Carcanet, have co-signed a letter to Dame Liz Forgan, chair of Arts Council England. Letters from Faber and Picador have been sent separately.

The publishers warn the poetry sector of British publishing is a "delicately balanced, even fragile, ecology" which cannot continue without reaching readers, as the PBS helps it to do. "The closure of the Poetry Book Society would lead to a considerable loss of sales for a large number of UK poetry publishers during a time of unparalleled economic challenge," they said. "It would be a massive loss to poets, publishers and readers alike."

The protest came in the same week as a letter from the Royal Society of Literature, published in the Times Literary Supplement, expressed "dismay" at the ACE decision. RSL president Colin Thubron and chair Anne Chisholm wrote: "As review space for poetry in the national press is increasingly squeezed, the Poetry Book Society's quarterly bulletin plays a critical role in drawing readers' and booksellers' attention to poets who might not find an audience."

The Arts Council announced it was withdrawing its funding from the society in its latest budget round, saying the PBS' "reach and distribution was not as wide or effective as other applicants'". The decision has already aroused an angry reaction from poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, and protests from other leading poets including Don Paterson and Blake Morrison.