People's Laureate puts poetry on TUC agenda
Wednesday 08 September 1999
In celebrating the trade union movement so soon after writing about the marriage of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones, Professor Motion has made explicit his wish that the Poet Laureate be a people's poet as well as a celebrant of royal occasions.
This is the first time in its 131-year history that the TUC has been presented with its own Congress poem. Professor Motion will read the poem, entitled "In a Perfect World", to the TUC in Brighton next Tuesday, after speeches from the Prime Minister and Sir Herman Ouseley, who chairs the Commission for Racial Equality.
The 30-line verse describes a walk along the bank of the Thames in London from Richmond to Westminster, passing signs of Britain's industrial heritage. Written in the first person in a contemplative vein, the poem touches on issues of personal and collective freedom.
Professor Motion, appointed Poet Laureate in May after the death of Ted Hughes, said the work was "a public poem written in an intimate voice".
The TUC general secretary, John Monks, said: "We are honoured and delighted by the Laureate's acceptance of our invitation, which I know will be appreciated by the hundreds of trade unionists gathering in Brighton this weekend.
"The poem evokes liberty in a gently paced and beautifully understated way. This sunshine stroll both recaptures the legacy of our past and looks buoyantly to the future. It also reminds us that others around the world are still denied the basic freedoms we take for granted."
The verse has turned trade union leaders into literary critics. John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB general union, described it as "earthy rather than lyrical;" something his members would identify with.
The poem was commissioned by the TUC, but no fee is being paid to the Laureate.
By Andrew Motion
I was walking the Thames Path from Richmond
to Westminster, just because I was free
to do so, just for the pleasure of light
filling my head, just for the breeze like a hand
tap-tap-tap tapping the small of my back,
just for the slow and steady breath of dust
fanning on flints, on cobbles, on squared-off
slab-stones - dust which was marking the time
it takes for a thing to be born, to die,
then to be born again. The puzzled brow
of Parliament filled the distance, ducking
and diving as long parades of tree-clouds
or skinny-ribbed office blocks worked their way
in between. The mouth of the Wandle stuck
its sick tongue out and went. The smoke-scarred walls
of a disused warehouse offered on close
inspection a locked-away world of rust
and sand flecks and slate all hoarding the sun.
That's right: I was walking the Thames Path east
as though I was water myself - each twist
and turn bringing me out on the level,
leading me hither through brick-chinks
into the hush of my clarified head,
into the chamber where one voice speaking
its mind could fathom what liberty means,
and catch the echo of others which ring
round the rim of the world. Catch and hold.
The buttery sun kept casting its light
on everything equally. The soft breeze
did as it always did, and ushered me on.
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 4 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
The City of the Monkey God: Archaeologists claim to have found city lost for 1,000 years in remote Honduran jungle
Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
Bubonic plague-carrying fleas found on New York City rats
London property boom built on dirty money
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This distributor and wholesaler...
£26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This highly successful business...
£28000 - £30000 per annum + Bonus, Pension, 25days hol, PHC +: Ashdown Group: ...