MONITOR: POET LAUREATE
Saturday 22 May 1999
as the nation's next Poet Laureate
NOT ONLY is Motion not a people's poet; he isn't even a poets' poet. The scale of indifference to him among the educated public may be gauged by the fact that, until yesterday, the London Library's copies of his volumes were still on the shelves; not one had been borrowed, except by a handful of readers just after publication. Apart from his friends and reviewers, the poetry-loving public is Motionless. (Daniel Johnson)
MOTION WILL assuredly fight the poet's corner. In this age the needs of any art must be met by fighters in committee as well as in print. And below the surface of his work, be it politics or poetry, runs his own narrative, a strong undertow that will bring surprise and anxiety as well as responsibility and praise. Thanks to the Government's respect for the office's traditions, he has the years ahead to weld those strengths into a laureateship for our time.
THE BEST comment to be made upon Motion is simply to repeat what Evelyn Waugh said of Spender. Spender confessed to TS Eliot that he wanted "to be a poet". Eliot replied that he could understand his wanting to write poems, but he did not know what he meant by wanting to be a poet. "Mr Spender knew very well," Waugh snickered. "He meant going to literary luncheons, addressing youth rallies, saluting the great and `discovering' the young, adding his name to letters to The Times, flitting about the world to cultural congresses." Change the name and it's all you need to know. New Labour could never have appointed anyone else. (David Sexton)
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