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Wednesday, May 19, 1999 Published at 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK


Poetry in Motion

Andrew Motion was an early favourite for the post

The Queen has approved Andrew Motion as the new Poet Laureate, in succession to the late Ted Hughes.

BBC Media Correspondent Nick Higham: "Motion plans to be a new kind of Laureate"
Downing Street made the announcement a week early, following speculation in the press.

The appointment will be for 10 years with an honorarium of £5,000 a year - a break with tradition for the role, which is usually awarded for life but remunerated with £100 a year and a vat of wine.

[ image: Ted Hughes died last year while in the post]
Ted Hughes died last year while in the post
A Downing Street spokesman said: "The prime minister believes Andrew Motion is a fine poet and will be a fine Poet Laureate.

"Ted Hughes was a wonderful guardian of that tradition and Andrew Motion is ideally suited to live up to his legacy."

Professor Motion said he feels "honoured" by the appointment to the 300-year-old post.

Andrew Motion: "I was surprised to get the job"
Speaking from a literary festival in Australia, he said the role is "an extremely complex and interesting challenge for a poet".

"I want to honour the traditional responsibilities, to write poems about royal occasions and so on," he said. "But I am also very keen to diversify the job, or at least make those poems part of the wider national issues that I also want to write about.

Poetry publisher Michael Schmidt: "He is a very good poet"
"I want to make it more widely political."

He added that he was asked three weeks ago whether he wanted the post, and given a day to decide.

Poet Laureate is an honorary role with no official duties, although the laureate is expected to commemorate national events, such as royal weddings.

One possible inspiration this summer is the wedding of Prince Edward to Sophie Rhys-Jones.

Nick Higham: "Andrew Motion is a safe choice"
Mr Motion said the appointment had not come with a job description, but he was keen to get involved in education and literacy projects, especially involving children, alongside the traditional writing role.

"I am not going to write poems that are merely sycophantic or sentimental," he said.

The BBC's Media Correspondent Nick Higham says Andrew Motion had always been talked about as the most likely successor to Ted Hughes almost as soon as the former laureate died last year.

'Voice for the nation'

The Oxford-educated poet is believed to have been hand-picked by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr Blair opted for the more traditional poet despite speculation that he might appoint a modern-style "people's poet".

Professor Motion had been up against contenders including Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott before the list narrowed down to Carol Anne Duffy, Geoffrey Hill and Benjamin Zephaniah.

Welcoming the appointment, Culture Secretary Chris Smith said: "The Poet Laureate is a voice for poetry and a voice for the nation through poetry.

"I am particularly pleased that (Mr Motion) has already indicated his readiness to take up the new and important role of promoting poetry in schools and taking it to a wider audience."

Professor Motion, 47, has published two novels, seven volumes of poetry and a biography of poet Philip Larkin.

He now chairs the literature panel of the British Arts Council and is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.

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