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A change of bard
April 30, 2009 5:02 PM   Subscribe

British poetry has a mixed day: Carol Ann Duffy looks very much like she's going to be the first ever woman poet laureate. U.A.Fanthorpe sadly won't be there to see her awarded the terse of Canary Wine

The last time the Laureateship was up for grabs, the Guardian campaigned for Ms. Fanthorpe. She could be haunting, rooted, and quietly funny. I hope people whose love for someone is long and lived-in and still a thing of wonder will like Atlas a lot.

But this time it's gone to Ms Duffy. Let us all hope that the new job doesn't stop her writing her poems of yearning and transcendance and otherwise trouble-making (previously)
posted by calico (18 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
The obvious and correct choice. The only real competition should have been Roger McGough, although Simon Armitage was heavily tipped. Armitage certainly fit the bill of tv poetry talking head that Motion had assumed prior to his Laureateship. I'd give it to Tony Harrison.

While I wouldn't say the post is totally irrelevant, it desperately needs to be....made relevant.
posted by fire&wings at 5:14 PM on April 30, 2009


it desperately needs to be....made relevant.

Yes, poetry makes nothing happen, what can we do about this?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:43 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't forget that we upstarts in the colonies already appointed a female poet laureate sixteen years ago.
posted by jonp72 at 5:45 PM on April 30, 2009


Quite so. Sorry if it seemed I was claiming otherwise.

While I wouldn't say the post is totally irrelevant, it desperately needs to be....made relevant.

I felt quite hurt and confused by this for a couple of seconds - more relevant? What can f&w mean? All this has only happened today...ah, that kind of post.
posted by calico at 5:53 PM on April 30, 2009


Yes, poetry makes nothing happen, what can we do about this?

It's nothing to do with poetry and all about modernising what the laureateship entails. You know, in the same way Prince Henry of Wales has modernised what being a member of the Royal family entails. The public perception of and respect for the Royal Family has shifted significantly within a couple of generations, the laureateship isn't top of most people's agendas but it could still be modernised, most importantly of all made more conducive to good poetry for the poor poet that is given the role. The worst part of being Poet Laureate is that more often than not in recent times it stifles good poetry.
posted by fire&wings at 5:57 PM on April 30, 2009


I am not a big fan of poetry, and the last Poet Laureate left me particularly cold. Similarly the stultifyingly boring inauguration woman. But the whole hoo-ha about the knife-crime poem (detailed in the 'previously' link) is a reminder of the value of an artist as a commentator. Long may it continue.
posted by Jakey at 5:59 PM on April 30, 2009


I had never read Duffy's work before this. Warming Her Pearls is aching, isn't it? Just when you think that every possible description of longing had been penned...

Duffy's Mrs Schofield's GCSE is not only a wonderful, piercing (ha ha) retaliation against a well-intentioned but provincial education beaurocrat, but it rendered said beaurocrat "gobsmacked." Being American, this idiom does not enter my consciousness nearly enough.

The spat begs the question-How could an educated, well-intentioned educator make such a seemingly arbitrary ban? Yes, it is certainly hypocritical, but in that respect, Suffy's poem seems kind of a cheap shot. Of course there are countless scenes of graphic and gratuitous violence in the canon of "sacred" literary texts. But maybe that's just it. Shakespeare, Lucretius, Machievelli, Capote--they are canonized. Most of us (i.e. your typical student, teacher, lay reader and consumer of those canonical authors' pop culture profiles) really read their work as products of the era in which they were created and with the voices of millions of readers over sometimes centuries mumbling approval in their ears--"Yes yes-these are the 'good' books." Perhaps a 400-year-old story of a knife fight that took place hundred of years before that is just safer than the monologue of a contemporary character---"invented?" or could he have been someone we met yesterday?
posted by njbradburn at 6:00 PM on April 30, 2009


fire&wings : I don't really get it, I'm sorry. In the US the PL has never been important in any way one way or another, because nobody really gives two shits about poem writers unless they want one of us to show up at an inauguration and write something historic in two weeks that mouths the right platitudes. No matter what a Laureate does in the US it could never be even the slightest bit relevant to most people since Poetry isn't and will never be. (Uppercase P not lower case. Most people very much enjoy certain poems.) I was just assuming they felt the same way in England, and that this is primary an award rather than like a Job.

But I really liked the World's Wife, and I'm pretty sure she's a lesbian to boot, so, jolly good show brits!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:14 PM on April 30, 2009


FYI, a butt of sack is 108 gallons of white wine.

Sounds like a job for Li Po.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:59 PM on April 30, 2009


Anyone know of any place to get a copy of Armitage's poem that has to do with "The smell of the cabbages?"
posted by herrdoktor at 8:09 PM on April 30, 2009


The public perception of and respect for the Royal Family

Toffs.
posted by ornate insect at 9:17 PM on April 30, 2009


in the same way Prince Henry of Wales has modernised what being a member of the Royal family entails.

What?

Do you mean Prince Edward? Or Lady Di? Or Harry in a Nazi costume? I have difficulty imagining what you even meant to be saying here.
posted by Acheman at 12:08 AM on May 1, 2009


Carol Ann Duffy is wonderful.

Potomac: this is just one of those British things, like Radio 4 and drinking inordinate amounts of tea. Nobody actually reads the official output of the poet laureate, yet the choice is one that's taken very seriously by all concerned & is reported by all the major serious press.
posted by pharm at 12:15 AM on May 1, 2009


.

Fanthorpe is possibly the only writer I was introduced to in school whose output I actually enjoyed while studying it, instead of hating it at the time and then coming to enjoy it later in life. There was something about the shape of her poems that meant you could pick at and analyse them without losing the heart of the poem in the process. The emotional and cerebral levels would sort of spin around one another like a DNA strand. This may be why so many of them were meant to be read aloud by two different voices.

I heard Fanthorpe and her wife do a reading of some of her poems in Manchester back in the nineties and it was completely amazing. I always meant to repeat the experience and now I can't. :(


Also, Prince Harry? Seriously? This is your analogy?
posted by the latin mouse at 1:01 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


For me, Ian Hamilton's "Snoop Doggy Dogg for Laureate" (1999) is the most sensible thing ever written about the laureateship.
posted by Mocata at 2:13 AM on May 1, 2009


I very much liked the poets who gave her advice.
posted by QIbHom at 7:43 AM on May 1, 2009


I'm sorry to hear about U.A. Fanthorpe.
posted by pracowity at 7:58 AM on May 1, 2009


Carol Ann Duffy looks very much like she's going to be the first ever woman poet laureate.

They can't change the guard too soon; the Royal Family broke Andrew Motion's spirit years ago. (Poor bastard had to write two poems about the Queen Mother. I'd be hard pressed to write a heroic couplet.)
posted by Iridic at 9:22 AM on May 1, 2009


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