Bureaucrats have their uses. Our cultural institutions couldn’t function without them (and I have to admit that I have myself benefited from some arts organisations). But the relationships between the various arts and their funding and broadcasting bodies have some significant differences. Imagine, for example, how visual artists would feel if their supporting frameworks were run by Sunday painters. This probably sounds like a ridiculous fancy. Yet consider the comparative situation of poetry. Most of the quangos that form what meagre support base poetry has, are populated by just this kind of person. I won’t use the word ‘amateur’ here because, often enough, the Sunday painters of the poetry world are the ones who consider themselves ‘professionals’. Running an institution or a magazine is just part of the structure that confirms them as artists. If you need to ask you’ll find that, sure enough, those heading Poetry Societies, those in paid positions in Poets’ Unions etcetera, almost all fit this bill. They are, of their nature, good at filling in forms, good at all the institutional aspects of the art world. These poetry bureaucrats don’t necessarily sign their own cheques (there are others of similar job description who will do this for them). But they do, often enough, shape the landscape. The world of poetry created by them is often enough the world that review journals like the TLS and LRB seem to accept as the only one. Why is this so? It all seems to come back to that sense that since written language is shared by many of us we are all de facto experts. Is the fag end of romanticism reconstituting itself as bureaucracy?