Since everyone and his dog seems to have an opinion on who should be the next Poet Laureate, it’s about time my twopenn’orth was added to the mix. I would also like to point out to over-excitable Guardian columnists that the DCMS is ‘inviting the public to write in with suggestions’, not holding an X-Factor style public vote. However much Mark Lawson might like the idea.
I’m not Motion’s biggest fan, but he’s done some good things in his time – and the fact that we have followed America (for a change…) and gone for a fixed-term rather than for life (although the US Plaureate holds post for only five of your Earth years) is definitely a good thing. I reckon poor old Ted was getting rather sick of being prodded with the State pen by the end.
The knotty problem of who should be next has been taxing journalists up and down the country, and one can’t help wondering if the ‘poetry professionals’ that the DCMS is threatened/promising to consult will consist of anyone but the editorial boards of Faber and Faber, Carcanet and Bloodaxe. Perhaps someone for the Poetry Society might get a word in, but beyond that, ‘poetry professional’ is a joke, right? Virtually no-one makes a living by being in the poetry profession.
I have a problem, though, because the two poets who I’d like to see in the position are Seamus Heaney and Billy Collins. Neither of them is English. And Collins has been Laureate in the US. Shame. The two names being bandied about most frequently (in the left-leaning press and by the BBC anyway – who cares who the Mail want?) are Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage. Now, Duffy seems like to obvious choice, seeing as how rumour has it she missed out to Motion but narrowly last time round. But since 1999 she hasn’t written anything good, which puts a small damper on things. (Hell, it’s a sweeping statement, but where else apart from a blog could I get away with such things?). Armitage, on the other hand, I have a soft spot for, and admire his poetry very much. But, Poet Laureate? It just doesn’t fit with his persona, somehow, and think how foolish the DCMS et al would feel if their first choice turned them down.
I don’t have a perfect, un-thought-of poet in mind; I’m just not particularly thrilled at the idea of either Duffy or Armitage. Geoffrey Hill would be good, because he – and his poetry – would annoy a lot of people, but it seems unlikely. I’m not going to list all the poets I Iike, because it would be a long list, but I just hope the next incumbent has more of a sense of humour than Motion, and takes a leaf out of Billy Collins’ book and does more for poetry in education.
Oh, and for goodness sake, people, stop suggesting Pam Ayres.