Friday 1 May 2009


So, Carol Ann Duffy has been made Poet Laureate. Doesn't she look delighted?

Since I've read a total of one poem by her - yes, it's that onion one - I can't really comment on her credentials for the role, but it's good that a woman has been given the title - and her poetry can't be much worse than Andrew Motion's. Perhaps I'm being unfair, I just remember his gem when writing an ode to Jonny Wilkinson - which apparently took three months because he couldn't think of a rhyme for 'Wilkinson'.

A Song For Jonny

O Jonny the power of your boot
And the accurate heart-stopping route
Of your goal as it ghosts
Through Australian posts
Is a triumph we gladly salute.

O Martin the height of your leap
And the gritty possession you keep
Of the slippery ball
In the ruck and the maul
Is enough to make patriots weep.

O Jason the speed of your feet
And their side-stepping hop- scotching beat
As you touch down and score
While the terraces roar
Is the thing that makes chariots sweet.

O forwards and backs you have all
Shown us wonderful ways to walk tall
And together with Clive
You will help us survive
Our losses with other-shaped balls.

Not immortal prose, is it?
I do wonder how much need there is for a Poet Laureate, but I'm the last to suggest eradicating any literary aspect of modern culture and society, since there is so little out there. And it also made me wonder how many previous Laureates I could name. Why not have a go yourself, as they say - I managed 4. Including Motion and Duffy. Give it a try, and check the answers here. I hadn't heard of nine of them, and didn't realise that 5 poets had turned down the position... a poisoned chalice, perhaps?


  1. A double-edged chalice, I understand.
    And one of the reasons that it's not immortal prose is that... it isn't prose. Do they give English degrees away these days?

  2. Am I right in saying that SiaB isn't keen on poetry so his comment aboout the Johhny peom not being "immortal prose" just reinforces that in his opinion prose is superior.

    I knew Tennyson, Betjeman, Hughes and because of yesterday's news also Motion & Duffy. I DID know that Larkin had refused but probably thought he was the only refuser. Now I need to go and look and see who else refused and if I have even heard of them.

  3. Are those...limericks? Did Motion really take three months to write four limericks about rugby? Blimey. Why not go all the way to GCSE-level English and do haiku* instead?

    *not taking anything away from haiku, which are great fun to write. Just not really fitting for great national events.

  4. A lot of refuseniks. I wonder why? I mean, don't they get enormous quantities of sack to go with the title, which come to think of it, should make writing limericks a piece of cake.

  5. Decent poem, but it is not exceptional in any way.


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