Monday, November 24, 2008

John Sergeant for poet laureate!

The nation is to be invited to vote for the next poet laureate. The government really needs to show that it is in touch with public opinion and tastes, or perhaps it is a clever ploy to divert our attention from the economic situation. The idea has certainly had me smiling this morning.

I challenge you, before reading any further, to name the current holder of the position and then to name any other 5 poets laureate since 1591. If you recalled Andrew Motion's name then award yourself 2 points. You can have 10 bonus points if you can quote anything from one of his poems. And here, for 5 points each, are the other 22 names:

1591 - 1599 Edmund Spenser
1599 - 1619 Samuel Daniel

1619 - 1637 Ben Jonson

1638 - 1668 William Davenant

1670 - 1689 John Dryden

1689 - 1692 Thomas Shadwell

1692 - 1715 Nahum Tate

1715 - 1718 Nicholas Rowe

1718 - 1730 Laurence Eusden

1730 - 1757 Colley Cibber

1757 - 1785 William Whitehead

1785 - 1790 Thomas Warton

1790 - 1813 Henry James Pye

1813 - 1843 Robert Southey

1843 - 1850 William Wordsworth

1850 - 1892 Alfred Lord Tennyson

1896 - 1913 Alfred Austin

1913 - 1930 Robert Bridges

1930 - 1967 John Masefield

1967 - 1972 Cecil Day-Lewis

1972 - 1984 Sir John Betjeman

1984 - 1998 Ted Hughes

The voice of the great British public has been heard to great effect recently: people who never listen to Radio 2 expressed their outrage about Russell Brand's show; hundreds of people who have never watched Strictly come dancing kept on voting for John Sergeant. Why should people who haven't encountered a poem since their nursery rhyme days not select the next poet laureate?

We haven't yet had a woman poet laureate and a list of female poets has already been submitted to the government. I, however, would like to nominate my son. I am sure that he would love to write about William's Wedding or Harry's Haircut.


  1. I keep forgetting your are in the UK. No wonder I didn't know who the current poet laureate is!!
    We are a bit ahead of you as far as women go- we've had ten, with Kay Ryan being the current poet laureate.
    Thanks for such a neat post!! I learn something new every day.

  2. Ten female poets laureate - that is very impressive, madrekarin! I hope we can at least start the ball rolling here.

  3. I've just looked at your son's site and I'd vote for him too. Love the Blogger's Lament (and others too).

    Sorry I can't quote from any of Andrew Motion's poems, although I do know his name. I could recall without looking only John Betjeman and Ted Hughes!

  4. BooksPlease, the Blogger's Lament is one of my favourites.

    As for the PsL, I could recall as far back as Wordsworth except for Alfred Austin, who is an unknown for me. The only piece of Andrew Motion's official work that has impressed me was his latest, on Harry Patch but that depends very much on the context of the film he made with Harry. I cannot imagine it standing the test of time.

  5. Well, M, of course your son should be up there with the main contenders ...

    But, yes, given the incredible range and quality of the work of so many women poets in the UK, it is about time we had a female poet laureate. But where is U A Fanthorpe in the list? I think we should be told. Have therefore written a post on the subject of her absence.


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