- Poet Laureate
A Poet Laureate is a
poetofficially appointed by a government and is often expected to compose poems for State occasions and other government events. The pluralform is poets laureate.
England, the term has for centuries been the title of the official poet of the monarch, appointed for life since the time of Charles II. Poets laureate are appointed by many countries. In Britain there is also a Children's Laureate.
Origin of the term
In ancient Greece the laurel was sacred to the god
Apollo, and was used to form a crown or wreath of honour for poets and heroes. This custom has since become widespread, both in fact and as a metaphor. The word "laureate" or "laureated" thus came in English to signify eminence or association with glory. "Laureate letters" were once the despatches announcing a victory. The term "laureate" became associated with degrees awarded by European universities (the term " baccalaureate" for the degree of bachelor reflects this idea). As a royal degree in rhetoric, "poet laureate" was awarded at European universities in the Middle Ages. The term might also refer to the holder of such a degree, which recognised skill in rhetoric, grammar and language.
According to the historian
Edward Gibbon, Petrarch(Francesco Petrarca, 1304–74) of Rome, perhaps best known for his sonnets to the fair-haired, blue-eyed Laura, took the title of "poet laureate" in 1341for the poem "Africa".
From the more general use of the term "poet laureate" arose its restriction in England to an official office of Poet Laureate, attached to the royal household. James I essentially created the position as it is known today for
Ben Jonsonin 1617, although Jonson's appointment does not seem to have been formally made. The office was a development from the practice of earlier times when minstrels and versifiers formed part of the King's retinue. Richard Coeur de Lion had a " versificator Regis" ( King's Poet), Gulielmus Peregrinus, and Henry III had a versificator named (Master Henry). In the 15th century, John Kay, also a "versifier", described himself as Edward IV's "humble poet laureate".
No single authentic definitive record exists of the office of Poet Laureate of
England. According to Wharton, Henry I paid 10 shillings a year to a Versificator Regis. Geoffrey Chaucer1340–1400 was called Poet Laureate, being granted in 1389 an annual allowance of wine. W. Hamilton classes Chaucer, Gower, Kay, Andrew Bernard, Skelton, Robert Whittington, Richard Edwards, Spenser and Samuel Daniel, as "volunteer Laureates". John Skeltonstudied at Oxford Universityin the early 1480s, and was advanced to the degree of "poet laureate" in 1488. The title of laureate was also conferred on him by the University of Louvain in 1492, and by Cambridge University in 1492–3. He soon became famous for rhetoric, satire and translations. In 1488 Skelton joined the court of Henry VII, tutored Henry VIII and was the official royal poet for most of the next 40 years. He was held in high esteem: "But I pray mayster John Skelton, late created poete laureate in the unyversite of Oxenforde, to oversee and correct this sayd booke" — Caxton in the preface to "The Boke of Eneydos compyled by Vargyle" 1490.
The title of Poet Laureate, as a royal office, was first conferred by letters patent on
John Drydenin 1670, two years after Davenant's death. The post then became a regular institution. Dryden's successor Shadwell originated annual birthday and New Year odes. The poet laureate became responsible for writing and presenting official verses to commemorate both personal occasions, such as the monarch's birthday or royal births and marriages, and public occasions, such as coronations and military victories. His activity in this respect has varied according to circumstances, and the custom ceased to be obligatory after Pye's death. The office fell into some contempt before Southey, but took on a new lustre from his personal distinction and that of Wordsworth and Tennyson. Wordsworth stipulated, before accepting the honour, that no formal effusions from him should be considered a necessity; but Tennyson was generally happy in his numerous poems of this class.
On Tennyson's death there was a considerable feeling that no possible successor was acceptable,
William Morrisand Swinburne being hardly suitable as court poets. Eventually, however, the undesirability of breaking with tradition for temporary reasons, and thus severing the one official link between literature and the state, prevailed over the protests against allowing anyone of inferior genius to follow Tennyson. It may be noted that abolition had been similarly advocated when Warton and Wordsworth died. Edward Gibbonhad condemned the position's artificial approach to poetry:
The salary has varied, but traditionally includes some alcohol.
Ben Jonsonfirst received a pension of 100 marks, and later an annual "terse of Canary wine". Dryden had a pension of £300 and a butt of Canary wine. Pye received £27 instead of the wine. Tennyson drew £72 a year from the Lord Chamberlain's department, and £27 from the Lord Steward's "in lieu of the butt of sack".
List of Poets Laureate of England
Gulielmus Peregrinusemployed by Richard Coeur de Lion
Master Henrywas Versificator Regis, or King's Poet employed by Henry III (according to Thomas Warton)
Geoffrey Chaucer(c. 1343– 1400)
* John Kay in the reign of Edward IV,
Under the Tudors
Bernard André of Toulouse(1450–1522), author of "Vita regis Henrici Septimi" called himself Poet Laureate under Henry VII
John Skeltonwas the Poet Laureate under Henry VIII
Edmund Spenserdied in 1599
From 1599 to the Present
* 1637: Sir William Davenant (a godson of
* 1715: Nicholas Rowe
* 1718: Reverend Laurence Eusden
William Whitehead, on the refusal of Thomas Gray
* 1785: Reverend Thomas Warton, on the refusal of William Mason
Henry James Pye
Robert Southey, on the refusal of Sir Walter Scott
Alfred Austin, on the refusal of William Morris
John Masefield, OM
Cecil Day-Lewis, CBE
Sir John Betjeman, CBE
Ted Hughes, OM, on the refusal of Philip Larkin
Andrew Motion(for a ten year period)
Poets Laureate in other countries
Other countries have established similar official posts.
Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureateis appointed as an officer of the Library of Parliament. The position alternates between a english and french speaking laureate each term. Candidates must be able to write in both English and French, must have a substantial publication history (including poetry) displaying literary excellence and must have written work reflecting Canada, among other criteria.
The first ever Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate was awarded to George Bowering in 2002. In 2004, the title was transferred to Pauline Michel and in 2006 to John Steffler. His term ends on December 3, 2008. Nominations for the position are open to residents of Canada, and must be submitted by September 30th.
Makar" is the unpaid equivalent of a poet laureate to represent and promote poetry in Scotland. On 16 February, 2004, Professor Edwin Morganwas named to the post.
The United States Library of Congress has since 1937 appointed an official Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. An Act of Congress changed the name of the position in 1985 to "
Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress".
U.S. Poet Laureate
Kay Ryanreceived her appointment July 17, 2008.
Previous U.S. Poets Laureate have included
Charles Simic, Rita Dove, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Frost, Karl Shapiro, Robert Penn Warren, Joseph Brodsky, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Hass, Donald Hall, Robert Pinsky, Billy Collins, Mark Strand, and Ted Kooser, among others. On June 17, 2008, the Library of Congress announced Kay Ryanas the country's sixteenth Poet Laureate. Laureates receive a US$35,000 stipend and are given the responsibility of overseeing an ongoing series of poetry readings and lectures at the library, and a vague charge to promote poetry. No other duties are specified, and laureates are not required to compose for government events or in praise of government officials.
U.S. states also have official Poets Laureate, as well as a few cities. Most holders of the title reach eminence by public competition; some have also inspired controversy by what they do in office and, as in the case of Amiri Baraka, have sometimes been removed.Fact|date=August 2008
Wales has had a long tradition of poets and bards under royal patronage, with extant writing from mediæval royal poets and earlier. An office of
National Poet for Waleswas established in April 2005. The first holder, Gwyneth Lewis, was followed by Gwyn Thomas.
New Zealand has only had an official poet laureate for a few years. Originally sponsored by Te Mata vineyards and known as the Te Mata Estate Poet Laureate, the award is now administered by the National Library of New Zealand and the holder is officially called New Zealand Poet Laureate. The post is held for two years.
The first holder of the title was
Bill Manhirewho held the post of Poet Laureate from 1998-99. Other former Poets Laureate include, Hone Tuwhare(2000-01), Elizabeth Smither(2002-03), Brian Turner (2004-05) and Jenny Bornholdt(2006-07). The current (2008-09) Poet Laureate is Michele Leggott[ [http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=18&objectid=10480540 New Zealand Herald article] ] .
Kannadasanwas the poet laureate of Tamil Naduat the time of his death. William Auldis sometimes considered the poet laureate of Esperantujo. Hanns Johstwas poet leaureate of Nazi Germanyfrom 1935to 1945.
* [http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/about/people/poet/index.asp?lang=e Poet Laureate of Canada]
* [http://www.und.ac.za/und/carts/pa2001bios10.html#Mazisi%20Kunene%20(SA) Poets Laureate of South Africa]
* [http://www.loc.gov/poetry/laureate.html List of U.S. Poets Laureate]
* [http://www.sfbayview.com/052902/laureatedevorahmajor052902.html Poet Laureate for San Francisco (official site, Library of Congress)]
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