Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Poets Laureate

The Laureateship is often the kiss of death to a poet. So cautious and so philistine are the people who award it (it is in the gift of the King or Queen, though they usually take ‘advice’ from someone almost as ignorant, such as the Prime Minister) that it only ever goes to ‘respectable’ poets who have ‘stood the test of time.’ We have had some real humdingers since the death of Tennyson; Alfred Austin was particularly memorable in his awfulness. He penned the immortal lines

Along the wires the electric message came:
‘He is no better, he is much the same’

(Some ‘important’ member of the Royal Family was slowly dying at the time.) Here is what the Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry in English has to say about him: ‘Remarkably, Austin has the reputation of having been the worst, most unread English poet; more remarkably, examination of his work bears out this verdict.’ However, that was published before the present incumbent was appointed.

America, where there has always been a snobbish fashion for adopting ‘English’ things, and where they unerringly choose the wrong things to adopt, also has a Poet Laureate, and I must say they make better choices over the pond. The current one is Charles Wright, whom I have just heard interviewed on VOA. He said, among other things,

‘It’s OK if you don’t like poetry: you can still get to heaven if you don’t like poetry —— but you’ll get there quicker if you do.’

Here’s a picture of Tennyson, one of the better of England’s Poets Laureate:

No comments:

Post a Comment