Page last updated at 10:44 GMT, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Public to help pick poet laureate

Andrew Motion
The role of the poet laureate includes writing verse for royal occasions

The search to find the next poet laureate has been launched, with the British public to have their say for the first time.

The reign of Andrew Motion, the first laureate to be appointed for a fixed 10-year term, runs out next year.

The government will seek advice on a replacement from academics, poetry specialists and the public.

Motion told BBC Radio 4's Front Row his successor would be "jerked into a more-or-less public life".

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said it was "exciting to be looking to the future and to appoint a successor" to Motion.

I think that would be a very healthy further realisation of exactly the sort of spirit about poetry that I've tried to engender - which is to allow people to feel part of it
Andrew Motion on the public having their say on his successor

"The laureateship itself is such a long and fascinating tradition and what's wonderful about it, if you look at past laureates, is that they have all approached the role in distinct ways," he added.

He said Motion had achieved his goal of securing "a higher profile for poetry in education and in society more generally".

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will consult academics and poetry and literary organisations in the UK.

The public will also be encouraged to write to the DCMS with their suggestions.

'Privacy steps'

Motion told Front Row the "popular vote" would be a welcome addition to the selection process.

"I think people should have a view about this and I think that would be a very healthy further realisation of exactly the sort of spirit about poetry that I've tried to engender - which is to allow people to feel part of it."

However, he warned that whoever took over should take "steps to preserve your privacy".

"No matter how well known you are as a writer, it's almost impossible to imagine what it is like being jerked out of one semi-private life into a more-or less public life."

They should also learn "how to resist courteously, the enormous rush of invitations to do things that will undoubtedly come to this person and risk overwhelming them", he added.

Motion's achievements as poet laureate, an honorary position, have included writing poems for royal occasions as well as founding the Poetry Archive - a collection of recordings of poets reading their own works.

The selection process to find his successor will begin with a consultation process.

After that, recommendations will be put to the prime minister who will put names forward for approval by the Queen.

Motion was appointed by the Queen in May 1999.

The new poet laureate, who will follow in the footsteps of poets including Wordsworth and Betjeman, will be announced shortly before Motion stands down next year.

Episodes of Front Row can be listened to again on the BBC iPlayer.

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