Tag Archives: poet laureate

Aclaimed poets you never heard of

Poetry is a funny topic. Although it was probably the first human literature and probably predated even writing, we see almost none today. Most famous poets including Lord Byron had to pay to publish their writing. While the words may stir the heart, and live forever, the writers are often forgotten.

No, I don’t write poetry. I have a great respect for those that do and read more than a little of it. However, I lack the patience a poet needs.

The other day I went looking for poetry on the Internet and found more than I could read in the rest of my lifetime. It appears that poets continue to self-publish. Today they use websites. So I tried a different tactic. Instead I went looking for poets. I turned to the term Poet Laureate. This is a poet officially appointed by a government or conferring institution, who is often expected to compose poems for special events and occasions.

There are Poet Laureates for a number of countries, a number of American States, and sometimes cities, or universities. Lots of alternatives. You might search for this term for your own country. So I started with Canada.

What a disappointment. Canada only began the practice in 2001. All the Canadian poets I am familiar with from school and other reading would never have had this opportunity.

The list of Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureates is a follows:

  •     George Bowering (2002–2004)
  •    Pauline Michel (2004–2006)
  •    John Steffler (2006–2008)
  •    Pierre DesRuisseaux (2009–2011)
  •    Fred Wah (2011–2013)
  •    Michel Pleau (2014–present)

I won’t be publishing any of their poems but you might want to search the internet for them.

More on this later.



To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net


Poet Lauretes of Great Britain

Well I was disappointed in the list for Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureates. Not in the poets, but the paucity of the list. So I thought I would review the same list for Great Britain. The appointments began in England under Henry VII in fifteenth century and continue to the present. Here are the names of the poets:

  • Bernard André
  • John Skelton
  • Edmund Spenser
  • Samuel Daniel
  • Ben Jonson
  • William Davenant
  • John Dryden
  • Thomas Shadwell
  • Nahum Tate
  • Nicholas Rowe
  • Laurence Eusden
  • Colley Cibber
  • Thomas Warton
  • Henry James Pye
  • Robert Southey
  • William Wordsworth
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • Alfred Austin
  • Robert Bridges
  • John Masefield
  • Cecil Day-Lewis
  • John Betjeman
  • Ted Hughes
  • Andrew Motion
  • Carol Ann Duffy.

What shocked me were the names that are missing. Byron, Scott, Kipling. Browning (him and her) and Keats, Yeats, Coleridge, Shelly and Shakespeare. Why?

Well some poets refused the office. Imagine refusing a position with no duties that paid you money and traditionally rewarded you with a butt of canary or sack or sherry, the equivalent of 720 bottles. Cash payments have been presented as an alternative to wine: in 1952, for example, John Masefield was given £27. He should have insisted on the wine.

Some did refuse despite the wine. Thomas Gray, Walter Scott, Philip Larkin, and Seamus Heaney, have declined the post.

Another reason for the missing names was the tenancy of the position. The post was for life until 1999. Tennyson held the position for an impressive forty-two years. Keats (died at the age of 25), Shelley (died at the age of 29) and Byron (died at the age of 36) simply didn’t live long enough to get a shot at it. However, others baffle me.

Well I have a list of poets to investigate now. And probably some interesting stories.



To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net