Poet Laureate

posted by Nick Hornby November 27, 2008 at 2:24 pm Books , ,

The newspapers are trying to guess who might be given the job of Poet Laureate, but I am yet to read an article explaining why on earth any poet would want the job in the first place. A few weeks ago, Andrew Motion, the current Laureate, confessed that he’d felt blocked and unable to write for a while. But if, as many writers think, a block comes from a lack of confidence, then it’s no wonder he’s been unable to produce very much: one of the chief drawbacks of the job is that every poem written to mark royal occasions is roundly and gleefully mocked. Motion was obliged to write a poem celebrating Prince William’s twenty-first birthday (perhaps unwisely, he chose to do it as a rap), and the Queen’s diamond wedding anniversary; many of his peers were terribly unkind about the results. Ted Hughes, his predecessor, produced one commemorating the marriage of Prince Andrew and Fergie  (‘A helicopter snatched you up/The pilot, it was me.’) and another one about the Queen’s corgis.  The next Laureate may well have to produce lines commemorating the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton, or even, God help him or her, the wedding of Prince Harry and Chelsy (sic) Davey. How could any ego, let alone one of the delicate literary variety, survive the kicking that such verses will inevitably receive? The list in the Times yesterday included some of my favourite contemporary poets – Wendy Cope, Carol-Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage –  and I fervently hope that they all turn the post down.