New Poet Laureate – Simon Armitage
Simon Armitage has been unveiled as the UK’s new Poet Laureate, joining an esteemed line that includes Lord Tennyson, William Wordsworth and Ted Hughes. Asked to define what a Poet Laureate does, the 55-year-old Yorkshireman said it is “an ambassadorial role, a ceremonial role, where you get the opportunity to endorse poetry and speak up on behalf of it.”
There will be no poem marking the arrival of baby Archie – “No, I think I might have missed that boat” – but Armitage has no antipathy towards the Royal family. “I’ve been made CBE, been given the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, so I’m hardly a rampant republican,” he said.
Whether or not he writes any poems as Laureate will depend on when the inspiration takes hold of him. “If I knew where to get these poems I’d go down there with a shopping trolley and get a load of them tomorrow,” he joked. “Being a poet is sometimes a little bit like being lost on the moor in fog – you just look for the next landmark, head to it, and hope that it’s a poem.
He plans to use the £5,750 honorarium to fund a prize or event promoting poetry on climate change, and is looking for financial backers. “I just think it’s incredibly important that, like all art forms, poetry reacts to this situation. It is unignorable. We do have people who are writing climate change poetry and nature poetry, and I would like to try and orchestrate something that makes that more official and recognises it. “A lot of my passion lies in that direction and I think it is a subject matter fit for our age.”
The post also comes with a supply of sherry, which Armitage said he will probably give away as prizes: “I can’t see myself getting through 700 bottles of sherry at home. If I did, the work might take a bit of a dip.”
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