The title ‘Poet Laureate’ can be a bit of a poisoned chalice, though some great poets have been given that accolade, such as John Dryden, William Wordsworth and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, for example. With poets like Robert Bridges and John Betjeman, the position acquired a reputation for safe poetry, chiming in an anodyne way with the spirit of the times – or perhaps that’s just my prejudice. That is why it was quite a surprise when Ted Hughes was appointed to the post; although he was certainly one of the most prominent poets of his generation, he would not have been accused of ‘safe’ poetry, though some critics argued that he was an ideal poet for the Thatcher world. (paywall)
Carol Ann Duffy was the first female Poet Laureate, following Andrew Motion, and with her the position became a 10-year tenure rather than a position for life. The position is now held by Simon Armitage.
Formerly a winner of ‘Young’ and ‘Up and Coming’ poetry prizes, Armitage is now a very well established figure as a writer of prose and for theatre as well as poetry. He’s come far since his Geography degree, and worked first as a probation officer. His writing has always been rooted in the real world and often draws on his Yorkshire roots.
He strongly argues that writing, including poetry, should in some way be subversive. It should get under the surface of things and challenge, even in a poem, as he says in this interview, about a teapot:
If you are currently feeling the implications of travel restrictions, and your exotic holiday abroad at Easter is under threat, then this Armitage poem might just be for you: