Time and Motion

Poet laureate Andrew Motion has been moaning about his job, telling an audience that the position has been ‘very, very damaging to my writing.’

He said: ‘The Queen never gives me an opinion on my work for her.

‘The last thing I did was for her diamond wedding anniversary. I came up with a poem and had to go along to Westminster Abbey. It was read beautifully by Dame Judi Dench.

‘Afterwards the Queen stopped me and said, ‘thank you.’

‘But I have no idea if she really liked it. I just wrote what I could for them, did what I had to do, and I won’t be including any of that work in my future collections.’

He finally remarked: ‘Writing for the royals was a hiding to nothing.’

Perhaps it didn’t occur to Motion that the post of court jester is not exactly going to be the most fulfilling creative experience of your lifetime. (Just ask Ian MacMillan.)

The instinctive response to Motion’s self-pity is one of laughter and derision and Mark Ravenhill provides this in the Guardian.

While many of us have admired the way Motion has used his position to promote the writing and reading of poetry, few are likely to remember with any great fondness the work he produced while in the post, particularly the rap-inspired offering he presented for Prince William’s 21st birthday.

The debate over the laureateship is between my own position – that we should get rid of this ridiculous institution of a state-sponsored wordsmith commemorating the milestones of social parasites – and the belief that the post can give poetry a higher profile.

As Ravenhill says: ‘I’m not against the position of public poet. In fact, I think poetry could benefit from a more public role.’

I sympathise but it seems to be that the problems in contemporary poetry stem from misguided efforts to drag it into the spotlight. I think it wouldn’t be so bad if poetry and writing were left purely in the private realm: in Ravenhill’s inspiring phrase, ‘individual moments of private reflection and personal epiphanies’.

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5 Responses to “Time and Motion”

  1. Rachel Fox Says:

    It is the no-job to end all no-jobs and that’s why these days it goes to people like Motion. I have never met anyone who has read a poem by this man. Have you? I almost hope they don’t pick Wendy Cope next time as I like her poems and don’t want her wasting her time eating sandwiches with the queen or whatever.

    If they want a post that is ‘promoting literature’ or ‘promoting poetry’ or ‘the country’s most famous poet’ then they should have that instead of this ‘write crap for the royals’ business. The royals can write their own crap, I’m quite sure.

  2. maxdunbar Says:

    My dad was at Oxford with Motion and always used to claim that he once humiliated the future laureate during an argument.

  3. Rachel Fox Says:

    I enjoyed his book on Larkin ( and I am a big Larkin fan) but I have not managed to get through a poem by Motion himself. Can you name me one of his poems? This nonsense about writer’s block (pur-lease!) – did he ever write anyway? Can it be proved? And then in what sense is someone a poet if no-one ever reads or hears their poetry? He seems very beige, very bland, one of those painfully dull Englishmen who do ‘jolly well’ but how or why is a mystery to everyone else. Is he in fact a hologram invented because no decent poet wanted to be the royal bard? I think this is turning into a Larkin poem now…

  4. maxdunbar Says:

    I think writer’s block is another term for ‘can’t be arsed’.

    But Larkin would have made a great laureate!

  5. sandrar Says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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