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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Poet laureate

A poet laureate is a poet officially appointed by the government of a country. He or she is responsible for writing poems for special occasions in that country, for example a coronation or military victory.

They are so called because of the laurel-wreath awarded to eminent poets in the Graeco-Roman world.

The Italians Albertino Mussato and Francesco Petrarca, commonly anglicized as Petrarch, were the first to be crowned poets laureate after the classical age, respectively in 1315 and 1342.

Portrait of Francesco Petrarca

In Britain, the term dates from the appointment of Bernard André by Henry VII of England.

King James I essentially created the position as it is known today for Ben Jonson in 1617, although Jonson's appointment does not seem to have been made formally.

Jonson was given a pension by James I of £100 per annum. However he didn't always get his money on time and by the late 1620s Jonson was increasingly broke, so he wrote Ode to Himself about "the loathsome age". As a result many poets sprang to his defense and Charles 1 gave him an increased pension, a gift of £100 and 40 gallons of canary wine a year.

The title of Poet Laureate, as a royal office, was first conferred by letters patent on John Dryden in 1670. The post 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.

The holder's original salary was £200 a year plus a butt of canary (110 gallons of Spanish sherry).
John Betjeman had the tradition revived in 1972, and today's Poet Laureate continues to receive a barrel of sherry.

Until 1999 the title was bestowed for life. At 73. William Wordsworth has been the oldest appointee to date. He was chosen as the Poet Laureate after the death of Robert Southey but since he was too old, he became the only laureate to write no official poetry

With the accession of George IV of of the United Kingdom in 1820, the requirement for regular odes to the monarch was abandoned. Nowadays it is up to the individual poet to decide whether to mark royal events.

The current Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom is Carol Ann Duffy. She was appointed to the position on May 1, 2009 to take the place of Andrew Motion. Duffy is the first British woman, the first Scot, and the first openly bisexual person to hold the position, as well as the first laureate to be chosen in the 21st century.

Carol Ann Duffy

The United States Library of Congress appointed a Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1937 to 1984. An Act of Congress changed the name in 1985 to Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Juan Felipe Herrera is the current laureate

Source Daily Mail

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