Poetry Society sued over Internet 'slur'

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The Independent Online

The Poetry Society is being sued over claims from a small publishing firm that it has lost business worth more than pounds 100,000 after a society bulletin appeared on the Internet.

Forward Press Limited is seeking damages from the Poetry Society and an injunction after it was accused in an Internet message before Christmas of preying on vulnerable poets.

The message on the society's World Wide Web newsletter named Forward Press, which is based in Peterborough, among companies that "rarely have any interest in literature".

It maintained that these companies are "in the lucrative business of vanity publishing involving preying on poets who cannot otherwise get their poems printed".

It took Ian Walton, chairman of Forward Press, three court visits before the message was removed from the Internet on 10 January. He said yesterday: "We have published 25 titles this year and been in existence since 1989. We feel they have lost us well in excess of pounds 100,000.

"I have got 1,000 letters from people thanking me for publishing their poetry and, for every 100 grateful letters, there is only one angry one."

The Poetry Society, a 3,000-member charity funded by the Arts Council, has been in existence since 1909. Its director, Chris Meade, said it would be "vigorously defending'' the writ.

Mr Meade would not comment further but the society is believed to be irritated by the growth in "vanity publishers", who promise to publish a poet's work only to issue it to a select few.

Maura Dooley, a poet, said: "Everyone in the world of poetry recognises that vanity publishing is a problem. If an organisation feels it has been wrongly accused, it should be working with the Poetry Society, not launching a writ against it."