LONDON – The centuries-old post of British poet laureate, bard to kings and queens, has been held by William Wordsworth, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Ted Hughes — but never, until Friday, by a woman.
Carol Ann Duffy said she hesitated before accepting the job, which brings a high public profile and an expectation to rhapsodize about royal weddings, funerals and major state occasions.
In the end, she left the decision to her 13-year-old daughter, Ella: “She said, ‘Yes mummy, there’s never been a woman.’”
The job’s been around since Richard the Lionheart, at least. Pretty ancient shoes to fill, which I’m confident Carol will do with grace, style, and mad poetic skillz. There’s also the possibility of some additional compensation for her efforts:
The salary has varied, but traditionally includes some alcohol. Ben Jonson first received a pension of 100 marks, and later an annual “terse of Canary wine”. Dryden had a pension of £300 and a butt of Canary wine. Pye received £27 instead of the wine. Tennyson drew £72 a year from the Lord Chamberlain’s department, and £27 from the Lord Steward’s “in lieu of the butt of sack”.
Hmm. I wonder what I’d have to do in order to become a British citizen and then fill Carol’s shoes when she’s done with them? A wordsmithing job that includes alcohol as part of the salary sounds utterly perfect.
Kidding aside, I’m happy to see Britian install its first female Poet Laureate, and I think they’ve made a great choice. After all, she knows what talent is:
a man, inching across it in the space
between our thoughts. He holds our breath.
There is no word net.
You want him to fall, don’t you?
I guessed as much; he teeters but succeeds.
The word applause is written all over him.
Congratulations, Carol! I’d pour you a glass of the good stuff, but I imagine the stuff they supply as part of your salary’s far better.