Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 May 2019

Simon Armitage named as UK's next poet laureate

The British poet, playwright and novelist succeeds Carol Ann Duffy

Simon Armitage will be the UK's poet laureate for the next 10 years. Getty Images
Simon Armitage will be the UK's poet laureate for the next 10 years. Getty Images

Simon Armitage has joined an esteemed line-up that includes William Wordsworth, Ted Hughes and Alfred Tennyson, with the announcement that he is Britain's new poet laureate.

The Huddersfield-born poet, playwright and novelist was appointed to the prestigious post, which is the UK's highest literary honour, on Thursday.

Armitage, 56, succeeds Carol Ann Duffy in the position, which comes with a 10-year tenure and has to be approved by Queen Elizabeth II.

A poet laureate is typically expected to compose poems for special events and occasions, especially of a royal nature, though he admitted he'd missed the boat on writing something for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's newborn son, Archie.

“I simply don’t know what I’m going to produce, when I’m going to produce it or if I’m going to produce anything at all. The role of laureate is not necessarily about writing. It’s more about advocacy and and initiatives and projects,” he told The Telegraph.

“It is still a royal appointment ... but I think it’s become a much more everyday, commonplace, domestic activity now in the workspace of poetry and not just something that’s seen as it was in the old days as a duty or a requirement or an invitation to write about royal occasions.”

Armitage, who is professor of poetry at the University of Leeds and also acted as professor of poetry at Oxford University, worked as a probation officer before becoming a full-time writer.

The poet laureate role had initially been offered to British-Pakistani author Imtiaz Dharker, who would have been the second woman to hold the title after Duffy, but she turned down the position.

"I had to weigh the privacy I need to write poems against the demands of a public role. The poems won," Dharker said last week on her decision.

Armitage, who last year was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, has so far published 28 collections of poetry, and is known for his no-nonsense style and observations on modern life.

“I want to celebrate and speak on behalf of the variety of voices who contribute to the rich chorus of British poetry from a wide range of personal, literary and cultural experiences, and to help poetry explore its potential in a multifaceted, multi-vocal and multimedia age," he told The Independent, of his hopes as poet laureate.

"The poetry of these islands is one of our greatest achievements, and as well as being proud of its traditions I want poetry to feel confident and at home in the contemporary world."

Updated: May 11, 2019 03:22 PM

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