Thank you Andrew

Our former President, Andrew Sutherland, has resigned from the Vancouver Poetry House Board of Directors. It has been a pleasure to serve on the board alongside them and with their leadership, and we wish them the very best in their current and future pursuits. Their contributions to the Vancouver Poetry House have been extensive and span many years, many programs, and many generations of this spoken word community.

We would like to acknowledge the delay in our posting of their letter of resignation. We were asked to post Andrew’s letter several weeks ago, and for various reasons, it did not happen in a timely manner. This was compounded by an accidental mention on VPH social media of the new President without previously announcing Andrew’s departure. This was a mistake and an oversight that resulted in members of our community inadvertently learning of the departure before an official announcement was made, which created an uncomfortable dynamic for all, as well as a difficult public-facing position for Andrew. We apologize for the mistake in the post, as well as for the extended delay in posting the letter here.

We continue to hold Andrew in high regard and hope that in the Board’s future endeavours we will be able to continue pursuing the mission that Andrew has guided us with during his time as President and make him proud.

Andrew, we wish you all the best and hope to see you again.

Their letter is posted below.

September 14, 2019

To Vancouver Poetry House,

It is with regret that I feel I must step down as President and resign from the Vancouver Poetry House Board of Directors.

Over the last year it has been my pleasure to work with such a committed Board, with such wonderful people both on the board and who stepped up from the community to assist with all the work. And alot of work there has been, from a board who met quarterly only a few years ago to a board who help more meetings than there were months, and engaged electronically every week when unable to meet in order to move things forward.

All of this was with the goal of building a sustainable organizational structure. We are not there yet and we still rely too heavily on a few key people. This has in the past and presently created the risk of one person being a linch pin to the organization. This creates a situation where too much is in the hands of one individual which creates reliance. This is not the foundation of sustainable and community driven organizations because decisions become handcuffed by the lack of flexibility that reliance creates. Not having adequately addressed that in the last year has been one of the largest shortcomings of my leadership of the organization. Addressing this by ensuring a sustainable pace of change, the distribution of duties and an ability to say when things are not manageable for the organization as a whole is hard; it is much easier to rely on key individuals to look after things. This is and can be hugely beneficial to getting things accomplished, but as a leader of the organization, looking back I should have done more, I took the easier short term gains too often.

I would also like to express my regret at not having better addressed community issues. My direct lack of action has contributed to important community members feeling unsupported; this was tasked to me and was something I was responsible for, to the board and the community and specifically those individuals. I am truly sorry.

When looking at how I came to this place, with these mounting gaps in my work, I realized exactly how under equipped I was with both time and energy. Recent events in my life have brought into stark contract simply how unhealthily  thin I was stretching myself while thinking I had everything managed. I am sorry to the board and community for not recognizing it sooner. Ironically, it is almost appropriate that this letter follows my message to the board by about 2 weeks, it is reflective of how far off my desire to act and ability to have diverged.

Which brings me to my decision, me reacting from an unhealthy place in trying to address my guilt would not have been good for the organization, nor the people who would have likely born the brunt of it.  I hope I withdrew prior to this but wish to extend an invitation to anyone who wishes to bring me concerns with my behaviour or actions. I have made mistakes and likely will continue to, but would like to make amends where I can and do better. I don’t profess to have an all knowing eye, and would rather be confronted with others’ real experiences than live with whatever my unknown blinders may be preventing me from seeing where I have done harm. But please enter into that dialogue mindful, that my capacity may restrict how quickly I reply, and that it should not be taken as a reflection of the importance I am giving your feedback.

I would like to end with stating that I would also not have been able to even contemplated stepping away were it not for the quality of the individuals remaining on the board and within the organization. I have complete confidence they will see the organization through to a sustainable path and we will all be better for it. While my departure was sudden, I likely would have continued forward from an unhealthy place was it not for my faith in the rest of the board.


Andrew Sutherland