Long live the poet laureate

<p><a href="http://books.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,2283415,00.html?gusrc=rss&amp;feed=... Cope said recently that she never wanted to be poet laureate and labelled the post &ldquo;ridiculous&rdquo; and &ldquo;archaic&rdquo;</a>. Next month, however, I am launching a campaign to appoint the first female poet laureate. It will kick off at the Ledbury Poetry Festival with a debate on 12th July 2008.</p>
<p>Cope's comments were echoed by fellow poets <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/60508-more-women-reject-poet-laureate-... Adcock and Ruth Padel, who also suggested that the post's responsibility of writing for the Queen was probably more trouble than it was worth</a>. So why would I wish the appointment of poet laureate on anyone?</p>
<p>It exposes the poet to mockery and controversy, before they have even written any official poetry. When William Wordsworth was appointed poet laureate, the painter Benjamin Haydon wrote: &ldquo;What would Hazlitt say now? The poet of the lakes and mountains in bag-wig, sword and ruffles!&rdquo;</p>
<p>Nonetheless, there are many fabulous female poets that I would happily suggest for the post: Carol Ann Duffy, Kate Clanchy, Lavinia Greenlaw, Jackie Kay, Jo Shapcott, Jean Sprackland, Vicki Feaver, Kathleen Jamie, Alice Oswald among many others.</p>
<p>Cope said the post was &ldquo;archaic&rdquo;--but I think it is the one really high profile post in poetry and the current poet laureate, Andrew Motion, through innovations including the <a href="http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/home.do">Poetry Archive</a>, has raised the stakes and shown what a force the poet laureate can be for spreading the word about poetry.</p>
<p>Poetry can matter. It can reflect and illuminate our times, cut through cant and speak to people directly in a way that disarms and affects. Every small step towards opening up new possibilities for women in the genre changes the landscape, so that a young girl writing poems in secret and dreaming of being a poet will look at a new woman poet laureate and think, &ldquo;I could do that!&rdquo;&nbsp;</p>
<p>That is why I am campaigning for a woman poet laureate who will use their position to reach out to new audiences for poetry and remind people that poetry is relevant.</p>
<p>But the poet laureate must have the freedom to write poetry for national events that stimulate and provoke. Their verse should not be muzzled by duty or convention, but free to speak out like a clear bell, to be heard far and wide!</p>
<p><i>The </i><a href="http://www.poetry-festival.com/"><i>Ledbury Poetry Festival </i></a><i>runs from 4th to 13th July 2008.</i></p>