Friday, 30 January 2009

Poet Laureate

Wendy Cope has questioned the role of poet laureate, saying it's the duty of all poets to comment/reflect on national events (read a fraction more here). She's calling for it to be scrapped. While one hand I agree. On the other I wonder if there's an opportunity here.

So far the role has gone to the 'establishment'. The past three laureates: while middle class males: Betjeman, Hughes and Motion. This time round there's talk of a woman being put forward. Two before Cope had her public say. A step, yes. But how about going a little further? How about readdressing the bias? As Bernardine Evaristo discussed in a previous post there is a stifling monoculture of published poets in this country. Maybe it's time for a reappraisal of what the point of the role is. Maybe it's more than a job of advocacy (one Motion has brought into the role). It should reflect what poetry can be so brilliant at: shining a light on a unspoken truth. Transparency.

There should be a decent salary attached, an open invitation to apply and a cross-cultural selection committee.

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