Monday, 11 May 2009

Earning One's Stipend

There was a time when the poet laureate was paid a stipend of a pipe of port (48 cases) and required to bash out a stanza for royal hatches, matches and dispatches; also for military victories and matters of great public interest.

Nowadays, poets laureate are not donnish port-drinkers, but modern, happening, right-on types. Probably drink Mexican beer with a piece of lime stuffed in the neck of the bottle. Or at least that's what I imagined Andrew Motion doing, despite being an Oxford chap. So they get bunged £5750 instead. Motion was a pretty hopeless poet laureate, though I did think his "Regime Change" read quite well, notwithstanding the lefty angle.

Now we have Carol Ann Duffy, who I fear would have added lemon to the splendid Taylor or Fonseca port that came with the job. Not the shy or retiring type, Carol Ann. She described her appointment as "a historic day for women". Charles Moore reports that "she says she wants 300 years of female poet laureates to balance the past three centuries of males".

Oh dear. I think she may be missing the point. Good poetry is what we want, not affirmative action. Moore continues:

She has lots of ideas about ‘the vocation of poetry’, and wants to use the laureateship to get her fellow poets into schools, preach about how homosexuality (she is a lesbian) is ‘a lovely, ordinary thing’ etc. I fear that the post may suffer from what economists call ‘producer capture’. Miss Duffy says that in her conversations with ministers and with Buckingham Palace, ‘I was told there was no expectation that I would write royal poetry.’

I would have thought that our Parliament sinking to its nadir of dishonour would be a good time for the old wordsmith to rustle up a cheery sonnet. Betjeman would have known what to do.

Luckily, we have our own Betjeman of the Blog, a modern Wikipling, if you like: Nick Drew, you cheer us up! http://cityunslicker.blogspot.com/2009/05/very-very-odd.html for his latest offering. He'd get a bottle of Taylor 83 opened for him in this house were he ever to visit it. And not a sniff of lemon.

17 comments:

Philipa said...

You know, looking at her picture I was amazed to discover she was a lesbian.

Nick Drew said...

my pleasure, my pleasure

Taylor '83, Egad ! that trumps even that bottle of the Tuscan's best olive

I may be moved to saddle up & accept ...

idle said...

Pip, I cheated. I looked up a picture of Andrea Dworkin, who was the the first and most famous of the dungaree-wearing bull dykes.

As far as I know, Duffy does not wear dungarees.

Philipa said...

She belts out a good tune though.

lilith said...

I have Andrea's oeuvre Idle :-)

idle said...

I have never looked into Andrea's oeuvre, lil.

Way too scary.

lilith said...

I consumed it in the early 80's. Never managed Pornography cover to cover though.

apricotfox said...

as a published poet, I feel entitled to say that I do not rate her and I HATE the way she reads her poems. I shall be gunning for the PL job...which, given my advancing years, I will never get BUT I would like to demonstrate that one can be a poet and wear Prada...

idle said...

As a pretend poet, and the son of a published poet, foxy, I feel entitled to say that I agree with you.

idle said...

I should add that I don't wear Prada.

Philipa said...

You could, Idle. It's all about style.

idle said...

I do not recognise Italian names when it comes to a chap's 'style', pip.

All the stylish Italian aristos I've met were kitted out by Huntsman or Meyer & Mortimer on Savile Row; none of that shiny baggy suiting so beloved of TV presenters and spivs the world over.

Philipa said...

True. True.

The Lakelander said...

I see that "Benny" from Crossroads has had a sex change....

Tuscan Tony said...

I too was glad you explained her sexual orientation: the dungarees and Boyle-type hairdo gave no external clue.

lilith said...

Andrea lived with a toyboy.

idle said...

The toyboy woz a gayer, lil.