Letter: British poets for export

Sir: I can sympathise with Ruth Padel's annoyance at not being included in the British Council's touring exhibition "Contemporary Poets" ("Poetry in the land of Saint Patrick", 17 March): no one likes being left out.

What Ruth Padel calls "a new list of 60 poets" is the brochure accompanying the exhibition. Both exhibition and brochure feature 70 poets, in fact. The council has no intention of choosing for "export" only these poets, nor has it ever followed such a policy: the council's literature officer tells me that between March 1995 and the present day, 30 poets not included in the exhibition have toured for the council (including Ruth Padel), and the council intends to continue its own independent line.

Of the 70 poets, several are indeed dead - rather more than Ruth Padel's 10: 17, actually. True, a dead poet can't be "toured"; but one hopes that Auden, MacNeice, Larkin, Bunting, MacCaig etc will nevertheless go on being read, at home and abroad. The exhibition isn't an agent's listing of who is available for performance.

How Ruth Padel thinks she knows so firmly that I haven't been "seen in the last 10 years at readings", I don't know. It isn't true. I have even heard Ruth Padel read.


Low Tharston, Norfolk