May 11, 2015

British poet laureate destabilizes nation with decision not to write poem in honor of royal baby


via YouTube

via YouTube

Two years ago, my colleague Zeljka Marosevic wrote a post about British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s decision not to write a poem on the occasion of the birth of His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge.

I recently reread the post, and I’m afraid I don’t understand a word of it. Why, for example, would the birth of a baby—a baby!—occasion a poet of any stature to write a poem? As Britain’s true poet laureate once wrote, “a new baby’s born every day,” (note: there may be more than one baby born every day), so it doesn’t seem like the event deserves poetic commemoration.

And why would anyone be upset about this? Wouldn’t they be thrilled that a poet could devote more time to writing poems about beautiful things, and less time to writing poems about diapers and peanut brittle? (Note: I don’t have a baby, so I don’t know if babies eat peanut brittle.)

And what’s with that baby’s name? Is his first name really “His”? And does that mean he has five middle names? Very confusing.

Anyway, though I don’t really understand anything about this story, I just looked up words “history repeats itself” on and found many variations, so the quote has to mean something important and has to be applicable here. And hey, it is! Because according to the Daily Mail . . . actually, let me just put this headline in a block quote, because it’s so good:

Now the leftie laureate snubs ANOTHER royal birth

Never change, Daily Mail.

But yes, last time this came up, Duffy was on vacation, or “on holiday,” as they say in the country where Duffy is poet laureate. This time, there’s no vacation or holiday—she has, according to the Spectator and a number of other British newspapers, simply “refused to write a poem to commemorate the birth of the new royal, Charlotte Elizabeth Diane” [sic!]. (That’s right, the Spectator misspelled the middle name of the most important baby of all time.)

For some reason, the Mail asked the very well-accented art critic Brian Sewell about this not-quite-controversy, and Sewell (hailed by the paper as a “celebrated aesthete”) had this to say:

It doesn’t surprise me that she doesn’t take part. She’s very Left-wing and her political beliefs may have something to do with it. She’s a pretty rotten poet.

Okay then!

Even more gracious was the Spectator journalist Rod Liddle, who wrote the following “satire” and who, like all other commentators, seemed to find it essential to mention Duffy’s bisexuality when writing about her treasonous act:

I can’t abide the Royals,
They bring me out in hives,
And I would hate to celebrate,
Their parasitic lives.
You see—I am a leftie,
It’s those CUTS that make me sob,
So you might cry—“I wonder why,
“She took the bloody job?”

As I said, this entire story is very confusing, but if there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that no matter your stance on Duffy, one person who does not deserve the title of British poet laureate is Rod Liddle.



Mark Krotov is senior editor at Melville House.