When I was sixteen or seventeen I represented my district at cross country running. I wasn’t a great runner, sixth or seventh at best in our school event but no-one else liked cross country so, if you were willing you got in the team. It was the same with football. I was obsessed with the game but never quite made the first eleven. I was less interested in rugby but they needed fifteen players so I squeaked in. The point is the Poet Laureate gig is taking on a similar slant. My best chance of making the cut is I’m not sure anyone else wants it.
Wendy Cope would be my choice for instance but she made clear last time she didn’t want to be considered and it’s unlikely she’ll change her mind. Given she labelled the Laureate role ‘an ‘archaic post with ridiculous expectations attached to it’ they probably wouldn’t have her. She did say the expectations didn’t come from the palace or from Whitehall but from public and the media but I imagine Her Majesty felt a little hurt anyway. Or perhaps she didn’t; I’m not sure whether she’s really a poetry fan or not.
Anyway, that was one would be Laureate who ruled herself out of the running. Benjamin Zephaniah has been even more adamant, making clear that he has ‘absolutely no interest in the job’. He’d previously turned down an OBE and describes himself as ‘profoundly anti empire’. If that wasn’t clear enough he’s said, ‘I have absolutely no interest in this job. I won’t work for them. They oppress me, they upset me, and they are not worthy.’ So, he has a great CV but you suspect the job interview, should he turn up, wouldn’t go quite as well.
Jackie Kay is already doing the Scottish job and says the ‘Makar’ role (a sillier title still?) means she’ll be too busy. There’s a few who are up for it I’ll maybe write about another time but it starts to sound a bit like the Oscar Wilde thing where you wouldn’t want a Laureate who fancied the job. So maybe, just maybe there’s an outside chance for the likes of me as a sort of compromise candidate more interested in entertainment than high art.
Anyway watch this space for an update on Begging Your Pardon – Please Can I Be Laureate?’ hot off the presses soon.