Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Laureates and Lolly

Time was that being Poet Laureate was a job for life - not anymore, as the job is up for grabs again after Andrew Motion's term of office. It seems that both Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage are front runners: and it's a sure bet that neither of them will opt for the imperial bombast that was once obligatory, in the days of Tennyson and the like. (Here's an example of Tennyson at his worst: 'Hail, sea-king's daughter from over the sea! Alexandra!' - and no, I haven't checked the accuracy of this because elder son is up in the study doing a practice Maths paper and I don't want to disturb him.)

Ironically, I've just been analyzing poems from both Armitage and Duffy because my son had his GCSE English Literature paper yesterday (went better than I'd dreaded, thanks) - and I'd be quite happy to see either of these get the post. If you haven't read any of the poems in Duffy's Mean Time or The World's Wife - do. Her poem, Prayer, is one of my favourites (and yes, I know, I know I haven't been doing anything with PoemRelish, the other blog I set up, but I will, probably when the academic year is done and dusted and literary analysis is less of a busman's holiday). Simon Armitage's poetic translation of the medieval Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is superb.

I wasn't aware, by the way, before now, that the Laureateship pays less than £20,000 p.a. I wasn't aware it paid anything at all - er, can I apply?


KAREN said...

I wasn't aware they got paid either! Both candidates are a good choice.

Juxtabook said...

I think either Duffy or Armitage would be a good choice. Armitage has the edge though for me. I also loved Armitage's Sir Gawain. I liked teaching them both too, but again perhaps Armitage more. Armitage's poems on the GCSE syllabus are his earlier ones and the boys especially tended to respond well to a younger man's view of the world, though as you'd expect I think he is much better as he has got older. I like Armitage's novels too.

Lorna F said...

Thanks for your comments. I too would be hard pressed to choose between the two candidates, though Duffy's Mrs Aesop and those other withering satires in The World's Wife hold a special place in my heart (while not reflecting in any way on the state of my own marriage!) Good point, Juxtabook, about the boys liking Armitage - my son was delighted that he got to talk about Hitcher in last week's exam. I was just relieved that the paper asked him things he was willing to talk about at all - and if it had to be psychopathic violence, so be it! I don't think he mentioned Rutger Hauer along the way, which is remarkable, as his mind works most efficiently when film analogies can be drawn. I've had a look at your blog and like it very much - lovely range of books referred to. And all my sympathies with the labyrinthine procedures of exam marking - you're well out of it, I'd say. I've been teaching a very very long time now and at no time have ever felt any temptation to be an examiner - and especially these days (if you've read the rest of my blog you'll now my feelings about Assessment Objectives and so on).