We're delighted to announce that Simon Armitage will be the new UK poet laureate!
The UK Poet Laureate is an honorary position appointed by the Queen and government. The origins of the laureateship date back to 1616 with Ben Johnson, but the first official holder of the position was John Dryden in 1668, appointed by Charles II. Other distinguished laureates have included Alfred Lord Tennyson, Ted Hughes and more recently Andrew Motion. The post famously comes with a barrel of sherry.
The acclaimed poet succeeds Dame Carol Ann Duffy, who served in the role between 2009 and 2019 and was the first female poet to hold the post. During her ten year tenure she established the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry which seeks to recognise excellence in poetry. The £5,000 prize was donated by Carol Ann Duffy from the annual honorarium which the Poet Laureate traditionally receives from HM The Queen. She also supported emerging talent through her series of pamphlets with the Poetry Business / Smith Doorstop publishing, including the Laureate's Choice anthology, featuring a new generation of poets. The culture secretary Jeremy Wright praised outgoing Laureate Carol Ann Duffy for “her dedicated service in championing poetry to the nation”.
Simon Armitage was born in Marsden, West Yorkshire, in 1963 and worked as a Probation Officer in Greater Manchester until 1994 before focusing on poetry. He has published 28 collections of poetry. His work has been studied by millions of children as part of the national curriculum and in 2010 he received a CBE for services to poetry. He was elected to serve as Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford from 2015 until 2019 and is also the Holmes Visiting Professor at Princeton University, New Jersey, United States of America and Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds. In 2012, as part of the celebrations of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Simon conceived and curated the Poetry Panassus, a gathering of world poets and poetry from every Olympic and Paralympic nation, which was the largest gathering of international poets in history. Simon also received The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry for the year 2018.
Prime Minister Theresa May said:
“I’m delighted Simon Armitage has been appointed the UK’s new Poet Laureate.
“As one of our most popular and respected poets, Simon brings a wealth of expertise and experience to this important role. He is well placed to attract even more people into the literary world, and further enhance our nation’s proud tradition of producing exceptional poetry.
“I would also like to thank Dame Carol Ann Duffy for her work over the last decade - championing literature, showcasing other poets’ contributions, and marking significant national moments through her outstanding poetry.”
Poet Laureate Simon Armitage said:
“It’s a huge honour to be appointed Poet Laureate, one of the great high offices of literature. Over the past two decades the laureateship has become a working role, with previous laureates actively involved in the promotion of poetry and in numerous initiatives to identify and encourage talent, especially within education and among younger writers; I hope to build on the work of my predecessors with energy and enthusiasm.
“Since the laureateship was first conceived many hundreds of years ago Britain has changed enormously and the position of Poet Laureate has changed accordingly - I want to celebrate and speak on behalf of the variety of voices who contribute to the rich chorus of British poetry from a wide range of personal, literary and cultural experiences, and to help poetry explore its potential in a multi-faceted, multi-vocal and multi-media age.
“The poetry of these islands is one of our greatest achievements, and as well as being proud of its traditions I want poetry to feel confident and at home in the contemporary world and to demonstrate that in a hectic and sometimes frenetic age the combination of considered thought and crafted language is more relevant and vital than ever. I hope poets, readers and audiences will support me in my efforts.”
Simon Armitage was born in West Yorkshire and is Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds. A recipient of numerous prizes and awards, he has published eleven collections of poetry, including Seeing Stars (2010), Paper Aeroplane: Selected Poems 1989–2014 (2014), PBS Recommendation The Unaccompanied (2017) and his acclaimed translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (2007), Pearl and The Death of King Arthur. He also writes extensively for television and radio, and is the author of two novels and the non-fiction bestsellers All Points North (1998), Walking Home (2012) and Walking Away (2015). His theatre works include The Last Days of Troy, performed at Shakespeare's Globe in 2014. In 2015 he was appointed Professor of Poetry at Oxford University.
Writing recently in the Guardian Simon Armitage declared, “the laureateship should be the highest office in poetry and the laureate should be the guardian of those ideals”. We can't wait to see what he achieves with this new role!