Female contenders rule out 'archaic' post of Poet Laureate

Three of the leading contenders to be Britain's first female Poet Laureate have ruled themselves out of contention for the post.

The ancient role, currently held by Andrew Motion and remunerated by 630 bottles of Spanish sherry, is due to be reappointed next year.

But hopes that the 10-year tenure, whose previous incumbents have included Ted Hughes and John Betjeman, could go to a woman look set to be dashed.

Almost none of the leading female poets are interested in the position. Wendy Cope, who had previously been a favourite for the role, has poured scorn on it, saying that she "never wanted" to be laureate. "Personally I feel it is an archaic post and means nothing. It's simply not important," she said.

"It comes from the media this idea of writing royal poems," added Cope, who has attracted an ardent female fan base for her down-to-earth outpourings on relationships and men. "Andrew Motion had been doing a very good job writing royal poems without making a fool of himself, but he should not be in that position," she said.

And Cope is not alone in her distaste for the high-profile post, which will become available when Motion's 10 years in the seat come to a close next year.

Award-winning poets Fleur Adcock and Ruth Padel, who have both been tipped for the role, agree that writing for the Queen was probably more trouble than it was worth. Adcock said that quite apart from the extra work it involves, the role continues to command a very meagre salary.

"It's terribly hard work for very little pay," she said. "The poet laureate is fine as an institution, as long as I don't have to do it."

The fee for taking on the grand title is still just £5,000 a year, although the ancient tradition of a "butt of sack per annum" has been reinstated by Motion. But even 630 bottles of Spanish sherry – no matter how fine – is not enough of an incentive to abandon literary integrity and solitude, said Adcock, whose work has earned her an OBE and the Queen's Medal for Poetry.

"There's no way I'd do it, I like a quiet life; I like to be in the garden or visiting my children," she said. "When I started poetry it was something you did in private, not in public."

Ruth Padel, the chair of the UK Poetry Society, said she thought most talented writers would give the post a wide berth.

"I think every good poet would have the same answer: that you'd be wary about your work," she said. "My impulse would be to turn it down," adding that wider factors might affect her decision. "There are other things to consider, such as what it would mean for a woman to do it, and what it could do for poetry in the community to make it more loved, but you'd be worried you wouldn't be able to write what you wanted to."

Another frontrunner, Lavinia Greenlaw, would not comment on whether she would take the post. "I don't know, I haven't been offered it," she said. But Greenlaw added that she was saddened by Cope's rejection of the role. "I think it's a real shame that Wendy doesn't want it, as I think she'd be really good at it," she said.

Ledbury Poetry Festival's director, Chloe Garner, who delivered her impassioned appeal to the Queen last month to break with tradition and appoint a female laureate, rejected Cope's assertions that the job was outdated. "I don't agree with that," she said. "I think it's really good that the job exists as it's the one high-profile job as a poet."

Garner continues to be optimistic that the role can be filled by a woman next year. "If it went to a new upcoming poet, that would be just as good; it doesn't have to be a big name," she said.

The position was last vacant when Ted Hughes died in 1999, at which point Tony Blair took the opportunity to change the role from a life appointment to a decade-long posting.

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...