Since my previous comments here on the potential poet to succeed Carol Ann Duffy as Poet Laureate, there have been a number of dissenting voices about the whole process/idea which I have read and agreed with entirely, not least a few days ago when Benjamin Zephaniah announced he wouldn’t be in the least bit interested, not wanting to work for the ‘oppressors’. Quite right, and it is that notion of succession too that galls, as well as the roll of the UK Government in the selection process [see in a moment…] and that particularly of the Prime Minister, Theresa May having yesterday in Belgium placed on a memorial grave her snippet of a poem to the first and last British soldiers killed in the First World War, this a few lines of the infamously romanticised verse from Rupert Brooke, who never actually made it physically to the war, let alone fight.
The UK Government involvement is, like the whole process, a tradition, so this will continue, but when the likes of Nick Gibb [I genuinely first mistyped that as Gobb] Minister for School Standards gets involved, we know it is in the hands of philistines and dumb people. Here is his contribution to the rationale for supporting poetry and a Poet Laureate:
We hope that relaunching the National Poetry Competition will inspire children to read and write poetry and learn from the way the best poets use language.
Our focus on phonics in primary schools is helping more young children open up the joys of the written and spoken word, with 163,000 more six-year-olds on track to be fluent readers than in 2012. This means the world of poetry has never been more accessible to young people.
This is the relentless pathetic politicking from this man and the Conservatives, but it is also just stupid. ‘Phonics in primary schools’ does not make poetry ‘more accessible’! Writing poetry does. Reading poetry does. Having poets working with students in schools does. And of course, this is so obvious yet it seems wrong to ignore. He started it!
So this might sound like I am being defensive in promoting my choice/ideas for the future roll, but I don’t think it is. If the position was cancelled tomorrow, I would be fine with that decision. But it won’t. So I think we should hope/urge for someone who can relate to others and who can promote a poetry that engages and interests and maybe even inspires. And there should be other amendments, like the time frame, but there won’t be immediately, so perhaps this should be worked on too because these relatively ‘good’ choices and possible amendments are more likely to happen than the entire edifice being dismantled.