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Arts Council England launches first survey into publishing opportunities for black and Asian poets

  Posted on 24/05/2005

Arts Council England has launched the first ever survey into publishing opportunities for black and Asian poets in the UK. The aim is to find out why, in a culture where black and Asian authors are topping bestseller lists, poets of the same background are failing to make an impact.

The 2004 ‘Next Generation Poets’ list of the UK’s twenty most vibrant new poets featured only one black poet, Patience Agbabi. As a result, the Arts Council commissioned Spread the Word, an organisation which supports new writing, to find out why so few new culturally diverse poets are appearing in print.

Spread the Word is asking black and Asian UK poets, both published and unpublished, to complete the survey online at www.spreadtheword.co.uk/publishing from 31st May. To ensure they are getting the full picture, Spread the Word is also asking publishers to complete anonymous surveys about how they choose the poets they publish.

Kate Griffin, Literature Officer at Arts Council England, says:

“The Arts Council is pleased to support this important piece of research. We hope it will identify ways of opening up the publishing world to black and Asian poets - an outcome that would be of benefit not just to the poets, but to publishers and readers as well.”

Bernadine Evaristo, a judge for the 2004 Next Generation Poets, and who, along with Ruth Borthwick from the South Bank Centre, approached the Arts Council with the idea of the research, says:

“I have long been deeply disturbed by the fact that most poetry presses in the UK are simply not publishing poets of colour. Hopefully this research will provide explanations and suggest possible solutions.”

While there are prominent poets from culturally diverse backgrounds in print today, most were originally published in the 1980s or 1990s. Spread the Word’s survey will address this seeming gap in the recent history of literature.

Emma Hewitt, director at Spread the Word says:

"Though black and Asian poets are well represented on the performance circuit, there is a strong perception that they are seriously under-represented on the printed page. This project seeks to get to the truth behind that perception and to find out why (if it is true) and what can be done to ensure that the work of black and Asian poets reaches a wider audience through the printed page."

The findings of the survey will be released in January 2006.

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