Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Friday, 30 January 2009

Call for end to Poet Laureate job

Wendy Cope
Cope said good poetry cannot be composed to order

Wendy Cope, a favourite to succeed Andrew Motion as Poet Laureate, has called for the post to be abolished.

Writing in the Royal Society of Literature Review, she said the position has far too many expectations attached to it.

She suggested that a good poet can write about public events without holding an official title.

The government hopes to announce in March who will replace Andrew Motion, who is stepping down after 10 years.

Cope, with her wry wit and keen eye for the frustrations of everyday life, is one of the UK's most widely-read poets.

She said: "Although there is no requirement on the part of the Palace or Whitehall that the Laureate write anything at all, the press and the public expect it and the only way to get rid of that expectation is to abolish the post."

Writer's block

Cope added that good poetry cannot be composed to order and criticised former poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman for writing what she called an "embarrassingly bad poem" when Princess Anne got married.

She added: "I remember feeling sad and thinking, 'He shouldn't have to do this'. My opinion hasn't changed."

Andrew Motion
Motion writes verse for significant Royal occasions
Cope said the best way for a poet to serve the arts would be to remain free and write whatever poems they liked.

But she added that Motion had "worked hard and done a good job without making a fool of himself".

Last year, Motion said the job of writing verse for the Royal Family was "thankless" and gave him a case of writer's block.

His assignments included composing a poem to mark the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh's diamond wedding anniversary and a modern verse for Prince William's 21st birthday.

Motion initially said his appointment would give him a platform to promote poetry, and he has gone on found the online Poetry Archive.

He succeeded the late Ted Hughes to the position, which was introduced in 1668. Previous appointees, which included Ben Jonson and William Wordsworth, stayed in the role until their death.

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