A letter in support of Todd Swift

To: Dean Martin McQuillan


Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Kingston University
Penrhyn Road, Kingston upon Thames
Surrey KT1 2EE, United Kingdom

Dear Dean McQuillan,

As an international group of poets, poetry critics, academics, and readers of poetry, we the undersigned write to you regarding the case of Dr Todd Swift, a .5 Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Kingston University. We are very concerned about several letters and emails he has received from the university’s senior management, regarding the status of his poetry collections published between 2008, and 2013; namely: Seaway: New & Selected Poems (Ireland, 2008), Mainstream Love Hotel (UK, 2009), England Is Mine (Canada, 2011), and When All My Disappointments Came At Once (Canada, 2012). Together, these collections represent the fruit of over 25 years of poetry writing, including the work for his PhD in Creative and Critical Writing, from UEA.

In these letters, Dr Swift is informed by a Steering Group that his “output” – that is, his four poetry collections named above – are not ranked as “internationally excellent”. In further emails, he was told that the Steering Group felt that to submit his poetry to the REF2014 would be a “risk” to Kingston’s reputation; again, presumably as the SG had ranked his work, on a scale of 1-4, as a 1 or 2, and only wanted to submit work of a 3 or 4 standard. He was also told that other poetry produced by staff was not such a risk, and had been submitted.

We respect your academic integrity, and the right to form strategies and goals for your university, but we are concerned at the impact such letters and emails might have on any writer or poet of serious commitment to their art and craft, and especially one as dedicated a teacher, editor, publisher, organiser, and advocate for poetry, as Todd Swift is and has been. We cannot agree with your assessment of Dr Swift’s poetry as being below the rank of internationally excellent. Todd Swift is known and respected around the world, not just for his anthologies, such as 100 Poets Against the War, or for his widely-read blog Eyewear, read by over one million people since 2005, or his work as Oxfam GB’s poet-in-residence 2004-2012.

Todd Swift is an excellent, and internationally recognised poet, whose work has engaged with the work of key Irish, American, Canadian, Indian and British poets, by fusing an interest in performance poetry, avant-garde poetics, and mainstream lyricism. His poetry is hybrid in its interest in artifice and confessionalism. His work is important and it is a shame to see him being so undervalued. It is hard to imagine a poet based in the UK more aware of international trends in poetry, and poetry criticism, than Todd Swift. If his poetry is not excellent "research", then what is?

Sincerely, THE UNDERSIGNED:

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1. Timothy ADÈS (UK) Award-winning translator-poet
2. Bert ALMON, PhD (CAN) University of Albera (emeritus)
3. Joe AMATO, PhD (USA) Instructional Assistant Professor
4. Fortner ANDERSON (CAN) Poet
5. Robert ARCHAMBEAU, PhD (USA) Professor of English, Lake Forest College
6. James ARTHUR (USA) Assistant Professor, The Writing Seminars, Johns Hopkins University
7. Alan BAKER (UK) Poetry Editor, Leafe Press; General Editor, Litter magazine
8. Josephine BALMER, PhD (UK) Classical translator, poet and research scholar
9. Douglas BARBOUR, PhD (CAN) University of Alberta
10. Benno BARNARD (Netherlands) Department of English and Film Studies, University of Alberta (emeritus); President, Editorial Board, NeWest Press
11. Brian BARTLETT, PhD (CAN) Professor of English, Coordinator of Creative Writing, Saint Mary's University
12. Arjun BASU (CAN) Writer and editor
13. Micah BATEMAN (USA) University of Iowa
14. Bob BEAGRIE (UK) Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, Teesside University; poet, editor, reviewer
15. Michael BEGNAL (USA) Instructor
16. Peter BEHRMAN DE SINÉTY (France) Lecteur d'anglais, École normale supérieure, Paris
17. Caroline BERGVALL, PhD (UK) Judith E. Wilson Fellow 2012-13, University of Cambridge; writer, performer, artist
18. Anne BERKELEY (UK)
19. Linda BLACK (UK) Editor, Long Poem Magazine
20. Yvonne BLOMER, BA, MA (CAN) Artistic Director, Planet Earth Poetry
21. Zachary BOS (USA) Publisher, The Pen and Anvil Press; Editor, Poetry Northeast
22. Scott BRADFIELD, PhD (UK) Reader in English Literature and Creative Writing, Kingston University; Professor, University of Connecticut (retired)
23. Ian BRAND (USA) Poet, librarian
24. David BRIGGS (UK)
25. Ian BRINTON (UK) Author of Contemporary Poetry: Poets and Poetry Since 1990
26. James BROOKES (UK)
27. Diana Fitzgerald BRYDEN (CAN) Novelist, poet, essayist; former poetry critic for the National Post
28. Megan E. BUCKLEY, PhD (Ireland) Sessional instructor, writer, and co-editor of Watching My Hands at Work: A Festschrift for Adrian Frazier
29. Ian BURGHAM (CAN)
30. D. F. BURY (UK)
31. James BYRNE (UK) Former Writer in Residence, Kingston University; poet, editor, translator
32. Jason CAMLOT, PhD (CAN) Associate Professor of English, Concordia University
33. Surya Vahni Priya CAPILDEO, PhD (UK) Programme Officer, Commonwealth Foundation; Lecturer in Creative Writing, University of Glasgow
34. Patrick CHAPMAN (Ireland)
35. Despina CHAROU (Greece) Journalist
36. Sampurna CHATTARJI (India)
37. Ayesha CHATTERJEE (CAN) Poet. Head of CEP Administration, Harbourfront Centre
38. Alexander CIGALE (USA) Poet, Editor, Translator
39. Caroline CLARK (UK) Translator
40. George Elliott CLARKE, PhD (CAN) Associate Professor of Canadian Literature, University of Toronto; Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies, Harvard University
41. David CLARKE, PhD (UK) University of Bath
42. Roger COLLETT (UK) Managing Editor, Arrowhead Press
43. Matthew COOPERMAN, PhD (USA) Associate Professor of English, Colorado State University
44. Alfred CORN (USA) Columbia University (emeritus)
45. Frederick T. COURTRIGHT (USA) The Permissions Company, Inc.
46. Olivier COUSIN (France) Poet, teacher
47. Nicholas John CULL, PhD (UK) Professor of Communication, University of Southern California
48. Matthew CUNNINGHAM (UK) Lecturer, Creative Writing, Kingston University
49. Fiona CURRAN (UK) Poet, filmmaker, artist
50. Lauren B. DAVIS (CAN) Poet; longlisted for the Giller Prize; finalist for the Rogers Writers Trust Prize
51. Guy DE FERRER (UK)
52. Guy DE VITO (UK) Art dealer, poet, journalist
53. Nichola DEANE, PhD (UK) St Andrews, Manchester; writer and teacher
54. U. S. DHUGA, PhD, MPhil (USA) Professor of Classics, Calvin College; publisher, The Battersea Review
55. Robert Vas DIAS (UK) The Poetry School; editor, publisher
56. Josephine DICKINSON (UK) Poet and author
57. Tim DOOLEY (UK)
58. Frank DULLAGHAN (UAE) Poet and writer
59. Susan Millar DUMARS (Ireland) Poet, creative writing teacher, literary events organiser
60. Rosemary DUN (UK) Associate Lecturer in Creative Writing, The Open University
61. Tomek DZIDO (UK)
62. Jenny EARL (UK)
63. Sally EVANS (Scotland) Editor of Poetry Scotland and poetry editor of Scots Language Centre website
64. Gareth FARMER, PhD (UK) Lecturer in English,University of Bedfordshire
65. Adam FIELED (USA)
66. Peter FINCH (Wales) Fellow of the Welsh Academy; author, poet, literary entrepreneur
67. Piotr FLORCZYK (USA) Poet, essayist, and translator
68. Rev. Jan FORTUNE, PhD (UK) Founder, Cinnamon Press
69. S. J. FOWLER (UK) Contemporary Poetics Research Centre; founder of the Enemies Project; curator of the Maintenant series; poetry editor, 3am magazine
70. Matthew FRANCIS, PhD (UK) Reader in Creative Writing, Aberystwyth University
71. Annie FREUD (UK) Poet
72. Philip FRIED, PhD (USA) Editor, The Manhattan Review
73. Leah FRITZ (UK)
74. Donald GARDNER (UK) Poet and literary translator
75. Gary GEDDES, PhD (CAN) Editor, 20th-Century Poetry and Poetics (1969, 1973, 1985, 1996)
76. Ethan GILSDORF (USA)
77. Keiran Patrick GODDARD (UK) University College London; writer, researcher
78. Marcy GOLDBERG (Switzerland) Lecturer, Zurich University of the Arts; translator; editor, Passages magazine
79. Sarah GOODERSON (UK)
80. Wolfgang GÖRTSCHACHER, PhD, Sen. Ass. Prof. Mag. (Austria) Department of English and American Studies, University of Salzburg; Editor of Poetry Salzburg Review
81. Frances GOSSEN (USA) Editor, Clarion Magazine
82. Catherine GRAHAM (CAN)
83. Thomas West GRAVES (USA) Professor, Lesley University; editor, Scarriet
84. Joseph GREEN (USA) Poet and Novelist
85. Paul GREEN, BA, MA (UK) University of Brighton; poet, playwright, and novelist
86. Elizabeth GREENE (CAN) Associate Professor of English, Queen's University (retired); poet
87. Mariela GRIFFOR (USA) Publisher, Marick Press
88. Sue GUINEY (UK) Writer-in-Residence, University of London School of Oriental and African Studies
89. Mitch HAMPTON (USA) New England Conservatory of Music; jazz pianist and composer; journalist; essayist
90. Morgan HARLOW (USA)
91. Richard HARRISON (CAN) Associate Professor of English, Mount Royal University
92. Steven HEIGHTON (CAN)
93. Dawna Rae HICKS (CAN) Insurance Institute of Canada
94. Philip HIEBERT, MA, JD (CAN)
95. Kevin HIGGINS (Ireland) Poet
96. Sheila HILLIER, PhD (UK) Professor of Medical Sociology (emeritus), Barts and The London, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry
97. Norbert HIRSCHHORN, MD (UK)
98. Paul HOOVER (USA) Professor of Creative Writing, San Francisco State University; editor of the literary magazine, New American Writing; editor of the anthology Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology; poet, author, essayist, novelist; winner of the PEN-USA Translation Award
99. Ranjit HOSKOTE (India) Poet, editor and General Secretary, The PEN All-India Centre
100. Nick HOUGHTON, BA (UK)
101. Anthony HOWELL (UK)
102. Bruce HUNTER (CAN) Professor, Seneca College (retired); critic, poet, novelist
103. Elliot HURST (UK)
104. Larry JAFFE (USA) founder, Poets Without Borders
105. Simon JARVIS (UK) Gorley Putt Professor of Poetry and Poetics, University of Cambridge
106. Emma JONES, PhD (UK) Gould Lector in Writing, Trinity College, University of Cambridge
107. Jill JONES (AUS) Senior Lecturer, Discipline of English and Creative Writing, University of Adelaide
108. Diana JONES-ELLIS (USA) Poet and writer
109. Pierre JORIS, PhD (USA) SUNY-Albany (emeritus); poet, translator, essayist, anthologist
110. Kavita JOSHI, MA (UK) University College London
111. Ilya KAMINSKY (USA) Professor of English and Co-director, San Diego State University MFA Progam; Editor-in-Chief, Poetry International; Director, Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute, Poetry Foundation
112. Luke KENNARD, PhD (UK) Lecturer, University of Birmingham
113. Heidi KINGSTONE (UK) Journalist
114. Elena KORKOVELOU (Greece) National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
115. Yahia LABABIDI (Egypt) Thinker and poet
116. Kateri LANTHIER, BA, MA (CAN) Poet and author
117. Jacinthe LAUZON (CAN)
118. Gregory LAWLESS (USA) Suffolk University
119. Rachel LEHRMAN, PhD (UK) poet
120. Francesco LEVATO (USA) Director, Chicago School of Poetics
121. Jenny LEWIS (UK) Instructor in poetry at Oxford University; published by Oxford Poets/Carcanet
122. Pippa LITTLE, PhD (UK)
123. Jack LITTLE (MEX) Founder, The Ofi Press
124. Alwyn MARRIAGE, BA, MSc, PhD (UK) University of Surrey
125. Agnes MARTON (Luxembourg) poet, editor
126. Micheline MAYLOR, PhD (CAN) Editor Frontenac Press; Editor-in-Chief, Freefall Magazine
127. Ben MAZER, ALB, MA, PhD (USA) Editor, The Battersea Review
128. Richie MCCAFFERY (Scotland) PhD candidate, University of Glasgow
129. David MCGIMPSEY, PhD (CAN) Concordia University; Governor's General Literary Award nominee
130. Nicole MCINTYRE (UK)
131. Caroline MCKOEN (Germany)
132. Rob MCLENNAN (CAN) Editor, Chaudiere Books; published, above/ground press
133. Hassan MELEHY (USA) Professor of French and Francophone Studies and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Literature, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
134. Maurice MIERAU, BA, MA (CAN) Poet; winner of the 2009 ReLit Prize for poetry; founding editor of the fiction imprint Enfield & Wizenty, and of the online literary magazine The Winnipeg Review
135. Kei MILLER, PhD (UK) Reader in Caribbean Literature and Director of Creative Writing, University of Glasgow
136. Daniel MITCHELL (CAN) Concordia University
137. Kathryn MOCKLER (CAN) Professor, Western University; publisher of The Rusty Toque; writer, poet
138. Robert MORRIS (USA) Poetry editor
139. Jonathan MORRISON (UK) The Times
140. John MUCKLE (UK) General editor of The New British Poetry 1968-88
141. Mario MURGIA (MEX) Professor of English Literature, National Autonomous University of Mexico
142. Alec NEWMAN (UK) Editor, Knives Forks and Spoons Press
143. Cath NICHOLS, PhD (UK) Lecturer in Creative Writing, Leeds University
144. Billeh NICKERSON (CAN) Chair, Department of Creative Writing, Kwantlen Polytechnic University; former editor of PRISM International
145. Paschalis NIKOLAOU, PhD (Greece) Lecturer in Literary Translation, Ionian University, Corfu GR
146. Padhraig NOLAN (Ireland)
147. D. NURKSE (USA)
148. Geoffrey O'BRIEN (USA) Poet, critic
149. Richard OLAFSON (UK) Publisher, Ekstasis Editions Canada; editor, The Pacific Rim Review of Books
150. Daniel O'LEARY, PhD (USA) Associate Professor, Department of English, Concordia University
151. Alicia OSRIKER, PhD (USA) Distinguished Professor Emerita, Rutgers University; author of fifteen collections of poems; as scholar and critic, author of books on William Blake, on American poetry, and on the Bible
152. Jan OWEN (AUS)
153. William OXLEY (UK) Poet, philosopher, co-founder of the Torbay Poetry Festival, The Long Poem Group and Interviews' editor of Acumen Literary Journal.
154. Ben PARKER (UK) Translator
155. Jonathan PENTON (USA) Publisher
156. Bill PERKINS, BA, MA (USA)
157. Jeffrey PETHYBRIDGE, PhD (USA) Lecturer in Creative Writing, Susquehanna University; North American Editor, LIKESTARLINGS
158. Adam PIETTE (UK) Professor of Modern Literature, University of Sheffield
159. Winsome PINNOCK (UK) Senior Lecturer, Creative Writing, Kingston University
160. James POLLOCK (USA) Associate Professor of Creative Writing, Loras College; winner of the Griffin Prize for Poetry
161. Bethany W. POPE, PhD (UK) Poet
162. Jacquelyn POPE (USA) Writer, translator
163. Evelyn POSAMENTIER (USA)
164. Robert PRIEST (CAN)
165. Mel PRYOR (UK) Poet, solicitor
166. Matt RADER (CAN) North Island College
167. Barbara Maria RATHBONE (UK)
168. Patra REISER (CAN) Faculty of English, Vanier College
169. Pierre RINGWALD (Finland) Poet, teacher
170. Clea ROBERTS (CAN)
171. L. K. ROBINSON (UK) Founder, Tall-Lighthouse Press
172. Thaddeus RUTKOWSKI (USA) Lecturer, Medgar Evers College
173. Jack RUTTAN (CAN)
174. Omar SABBAGH, PhD (Lebanon) American University Beirut
175. Greg SANTOS (CAN) Editor, carte blanche magazine
176. Robyn SARAH (CAN) Poetry Editor, Cormorant Books; member, The Writer's Union of Canada; Member, Quebec Writers' Federation; former member of the English faculty, Champlain Regional College
177. Jacob SCHEIER (CAN) Governor General's Award Winner
178. Myra SCHNEIDER (UK) Core tutor for The Poetry School, Poetry Society; Consultant to the National network of Second Light Poets
179. Clive SCOTT, PhD (UK) Professor of European Literature, University of East Anglia (emeritus); Fellow of the British Academy; Officier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques
180. Tom SCOTT (UK) Senior Lecturer, Falmouth University
181. Sudeep SEN (India) Editorial Director, Aark Arts; editor of The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry
182. Colette SENSIER (UK) Poet
183. Don SHARE (USA) Editor, Poetry magazine
184. Natalie SHCHEDRINA (RUS)
185. Robert SHEPPARD, PhD (UK) Professor of Poetry and Poetics, Edge Hill University; poet-critic; Fellow of the English Association; member of the HE committee of National Association of Writers in Education
186. Andrew SHIELDS, PhD (Switzerland) University of Basel
187. Larissa SHMAILO (USA) Scribes Media; Editor, Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry
188. David SHOOK (USA) Founding Editor, Phoneme Media
189. Joanne SHURVELL (UK) Director, PayneShurvell Gallery, London
190. Jeffrey SIDE (UK) Editor of The Argotist Online
191. Kathryn SIMMONDS (UK) Winner, The Forward Prize, Best First Collection
192. Floyd SKLOOT (USA) Poet, novelist, nonfiction writer, winner of PEN USA Literary Award and three Pushcart Prizes
193. Edwin SMET (Netherlands) Graphic designer and member of the board of the Maastricht International Poetry Nights
194. Adam SOL, PhD (CAN) Associate Professor of English; Laurentian University
195. Glen SORESTAD (CAN) Life Member, League of Canadian Poets
196. Ben STAINTON (UK)
197. Elizabeth STEFANIDI (Greece)
198. Heather Grace STEWART (CAN) Journalist and author
199. John STILES (CAN) Author
200. Jon STONE (UK)
201. Agnieszka STUDZINSKA (UK) Poet and writer
202. Anna SWANSON (CAN) Winner, Lambda Literary Award and Gerald Lampert Award; poet, librarian
203. Sassan TABATABAI, PhD (USA) Senior Lecturer in Persian, Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature, Boston University; Lecturer, Boston College; Editor, Pusteblume: Journal of Translation
204. Eileen TABIOS (USA)
205. Lynn TAIT (CAN) Poet, editor, photographer
206. Maria TAYLOR (UK) De Montfort Univeristy; poet, shortlisted for Michael Murphy Memorial Prize
207. Jonathan TAYLOR, PhD (UK) Senior Lecturer, De Montfort University
208. Jeet THAYIL Bakibab Borkar Chair of Comparative Literature, Goa University
209. John TRANTER (AUS) Founder of Jacket magazine
210. Jack UNDERWOOD, PhD (UK) Lecturer in English and Creative Writing, University of London; Tutor, Poetry School; reviewer for Poetry London and Poetry Review; Artistic Assessor (Poetry) ACE
211. Hans VAN DE WAARSENBURG (Netherlands) Founder and president (1998-2013), The Maastricht International Poetry Nights
212. Allison VANOUSE (USA) PhD candidate, Editorial Institute, Boston University; Associate Editor, The Battersea Review
213. Willow VERKERK (Belgium) University of Leuven
214. Hannah VINCENT (UK) Associate Lecturer, Creative Writing, The Open University
215. John Emil VINCENT, PhD (CAN) Concordia University; Editor-at-large, The Massachusetts Review
216. Marc VINCENZ (Switzerland) MadHat Foundation; Executive Editor, MadHat Press and Mad Hatters' Review
217. Bethany W. POPE (UK)
218. Tom WALSH (CAN) NOMA, Les Dangereux Zhoms
219. Amy WALTER (South Korea)
220. Adele WARD, MA (UK) Poet, novelist, journalist and publisher; co-owner of Ward Wood Publishing
221. Rory WATERMAN (UK) Lecturer in English and Creative Writing; Nottingham Trent University; poet; editor, New Walk
222. Mark WEISS (USA) Poet, anthologist, translator
223. David WEVILL (USA) Professor, The University of Texas at Austin (emeritus)
224. Justin WHITE (USA)
225. Nerys WILLIAMS, PhD (Ireland) University College Dublin
226. Jennifer WONG (Hong Kong) Poet
227. Rodney WOOD (UK)

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