People's Laureate puts poetry on TUC agenda

THE POET Laureate, Andrew Motion, has craftily redefined the nature of his post by writing a poem for the TUC.

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.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star