Not resting on any laurels
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Date: August, 2006



Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate, talks to Suzanne Elvidge. Click on the orange links to find out more about the highlighted subjects.

Andrew Motion charmed my socks off.

A gentle, quietly spoken man with a self-deprecating sense of humour, he has written poems from a campaigning piece on the invasion of Iraq to an elegy about the decline of sparrows, written in the form of a kenning.

Currently Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London, in 1999, he took up the post of Poet Laureate, a role that, in return for commissions on royal occasions, provides him with a valuable national soapbox he would never otherwise be able to access.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge described poetry as the best words in the best order’.

Listening to Andrew Motion read poems from a collection in development, he chooses his words carefully and places them solidly, savouring their tastes and smells and sounds.


He writes prose like a poet, with his forthcoming memoir of his childhood In the Blood redolent with images and memories, alternately making the reader laugh, and pause into sadness.

Like many poets, he is driven to write by a sometimes melancholy sympathy with the human condition, especially prompted by major life events around him, for example the death of his father.

However, he also writes gently comedic and observational poetry, like Learning to Fish, a found poem based on the names of fishing flies. However, writing his ‘Laureate poetry’ can be harder—these are poems about people he barely knows and that tend to enter the public domain in the middle of a storm.

The UK population has very mixed views about the Royal Family, and so even a technically and lyrically brilliant poem can be damned because of what it is about.

Despite this, Andrew Motion values the opportunities his role provides. He has strong views about education, calling for more time to be spent on poetry in schools, and criticising the Government’s reforms.

He feels that the teaching of English is too ‘boxy’, with poems taught relating to their subject and content, rather than their poetic form.


However sophisticated our response to it, poetry is very primitive and responds to the primeval part of us. Poems don’t necessarily make us lead better lives, but they can redeem us from the moment, freeing us while we are in the act of reading.

They move us to different places, and so connect us with the inner lives of other people and go some way to explaining other’s points of view. In this way, poems are perhaps comparable to worship and prayer, by helping us to access something that is beyond ourselves.

Andrew Motion was one of the moving forces behind the Poetry Archive, which includes poems written and read by the poets themselves, from Abse to Yeats.

Get a flavour of Andrew Motion and explore the poet who “…would like to see poets associated with all sorts of surprising places, everywhere from zoos to football clubs.”

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