Skip to main content

The Next Poet Laureate?

For those aware of the "divide" in British poetry, between a mainstream and a less main one, nothing is as likely to provoke gnashing of teeth than the Poet Laureate position - and those opposed to the Monarchy and British-Empire trappings might also be known to wail, too. One of the less-attractive elements of the world today, is that the media feeds us little literary stories we don't need, all-too-often, as if to remind us that we still love poetry (though "we" don't: there is no mass consumer interest in serious poetry anymore by contemporary figures).

The latest travesty in this department issued from The Observer yesterday (which, in the 60s really engaged seriously with poetry), who weighed in on the imminent retirement, after a good decade, of Andrew Motion as Blair's laureate. One wants to sigh, the "nice decade is over". Of course, Blair torpedoed Carol Ann-Duffy's boat last time, we are told in this creepy article, because of her lifestyle (lesbian, with a young child) - and it is somehow suggested all is forgiven, now - not because Brown has different values, but because Duffy is no longer in such a high-profile relationship - all spurious, too-personal, and rather offensive. Though, sad, if true - no laureate should be deslected, obviously, due to their sex, gender or faith (well, they no doubt would have to convert, like lovely Autumn Kelly from my home town of Montreal). Motion retires in 2009, so this is hardly a story now. But the article goes on to suggest the three front-runners are Duffy, Simon Armitage (44, ages are provided for some reason), and James Fenton (59). All three read for the Oxfam Life Lines series and CDs, and write very well. It's hard to suggest these are not worthy candidates. Other "popular" "female poets" are then mentioned, like Wendy Cope and Jenny Joseph. However, the part that struck me as overstated was this: "many of Britain and Ireland's reigning literary titans are men, among them (Craig) Raine, Seamus Heaney, Don Paterson and James Fenton". I am not sure Paterson, still relatively young, is a "literary titan" (yet) - and his colleague Sean O'Brien would, I am sure, have thought that list might include him too.

But, rather more glaringly, the list removed any sense of controversy, debate, or uncertainty as to the current UK canon - the sort of annoying "naturalising" that happens when the mainstream press treats poetry like horse racing, or celebrity chef TV. Where, for instance, is Geoffrey Hill, in this list? He actually believes in God and England, doesn't he? Well, maybe too much. Where is J.H. Prynne - isn't he titanic, too? Too left-leaning, one supposes, for The Observer's tastes. Where are Britain's superb Asian and Black poets? They haven't yet made this odd little titan list. Oh, well. In the meantime, having a female Poet Laureate would be a good thing.

Popular posts from this blog


Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…


According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…


Announcing the Shortlist for the 2016 Sexton PrizeSeptember 13, 2016 / By Kelly Davio
Eyewear Publishing is pleased to announce the shortlist for the 2016 Sexton Prize. The finalists are, in no particular order, as follows:

HISTORY OF GONE, Lynn Schmeidler
SEVERE CLEAR, Maya Catherine Popa
SIT IN THE DARK WITH ME, Jesse Lee Kercheval

The shortlist was selected by Eyewear’s Director Todd Swift with Senior Editor Kelly Davio. Don Share of Poetry Magazine will select the winning manuscript, which will be released at the 2017 AWP conference in Washington, D.C. The winner will be announced in October. 
Congratulations to our finalists!