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.

Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam