Newell for Essex poet laureate

FEMINIST and author Germaine Greer has called for Essex scribe Martin Newell to be made the county's poet laureate as part of a reform of the historic post.

Annie Davidson

FEMINIST and author Germaine Greer has called for Essex scribe Martin Newell to be made the county's poet laureate as part of a reform of the historic post.

Ms Greer, also a resident of Essex, called for the change in a national newspaper in which she said Britain should follow the United States example and have individual poet laureates for each county.

The poet laureate is a poet appointed by the Government who is expected to compose verse for Royal occasions and Government events.


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It dates back to 1617 when James I created the position for Ben Jonson and came under the charge of the prime minister in 1790.

Ms Greer said in the report which was published on Saturday that the role needed “vigorous reform” with the upcoming retirement of current poet laureate Andrew Motion.

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Ms Greer wrote: “In the US, perhaps because they are obliged to serve no more than a single year, the best poets have been willing to accept the laureateship.

“In Britain where, before Motion agreed to a ten-year stint, the appointment was for life, there is a long tradition of refusing it.”

Pointing out that many individual states had their own laureate, she added: “British counties could follow this lead; Essex should crown Martin Newell with bays” before going on to suggest individuals for other counties.

East Anglian Daily Times columnist Mr Newell said: “I am incredibly touched that Germaine Greer has said that and if someone offered me the job for Essex I would take it.

“I would be a good rock and roll poet for Essex.

“I just wouldn't want to put a bow tie on and go to all the dinners with the stuffed shirts.

“And I don't want to write poems about the Queen.

“It would need to have a more open brief and be a job for life.”

He added: “I think the academics try and control poetry now and they don't want the yobs to get hold of it.

“These days no-one writes a long narrative about a ship or a poem like the Ancient Mariner - people have turned poetry into a rare kind of drink and it has painted itself into a corner.”

annie.davidson@eadt.co.uk

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