A letter in support of Dr Todd Swift

Thank you for wishing to support Dr Todd Swift. In doing so you are showing your approval of the position that any evaluation of literary productivity must take into account the ways in which the forms of literary culture and scholarship have been altered by information technology and networked communications.

Here is the text of the letter you are signing, addressed to Dean Martin McQuillan of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Kingston University:

"As an international group of over fifty-five (55) poets, poetry critics, and/or academics we the undersigned write to you regarding the case of Dr Todd Swift, a 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?"

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