[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 3 April, 2003, 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK
Poet laureate writes Iraq lament
Poet Laureate Andrew Motion
Motion said Poets Laureate should not avoid political comment
Poet laureate Andrew Motion has written an anti-war verse about historic places in Iraq whose past glories have become eclipsed by war and death.

The poem, called Regime Change, is "violently opposed to the war", Motion said.

Places like Babylon, Eden and Baghdad are now associated with suffering rather than their "terrific cultural achievements", the poem says.

In it, he envisages Death pausing on a road in Iraq and saying: "Now listen here. You see the names of places roundabout?

Take Babylon, the palace sprouting flowers
Which sweetened empires in their peaceful hours -
I've found a different way to scent the air:
Already it's a by-word for despair.

Regime Change
by Andrew Motion
"They're mine now, and I've turned them inside out."

It ends by saying Death was now working on the "star-tipped minarets, the marble courts and halls" of Baghdad.

Motion told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that some Iraqi place names "mean a huge amount right across cultures".

He said the poem was a political statement against the war.

"It's saying there is an absolutely appalling situation here," he said.

"The irony is that many of these places that these battles are taking place in are places that have strong associations with terrific cultural achievements."

Political role

While his opposition to the war was "very vehement", he said he wanted to wish well to the troops themselves.

He also said he did not agree that a poet laureate should not voice political views, and that his latest work was not unpatriotic.

Motion's poem follows a 30-word poem he wrote in January questioning George Bush's basis for war.

It suggested money, greed, oil and his father influenced the US president.

Motion was made poet laureate in 1999, and has written poems to mark the 11 September attacks and the deaths of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.

Andrew Motion on BBC Radio 4
"I wouldn't say that this poem is unpatriotic, but I would say that it is violently opposed to the war"

Poet Laureate pens anti-war poem
09 Jan 03  |  Entertainment
How war inspires the world's poets
10 Nov 02  |  Entertainment
Poet extols verse's 'healing' quality
04 Oct 01  |  Entertainment
Poet honours New York dead
29 Nov 01  |  Entertainment
Pro-war poetry website launched
05 Mar 03  |  Entertainment
Peace poetry volume rushed out
19 Feb 03  |  Entertainment


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific