Laureateship – Champagne Taste but Beer Money

Marx Reichlich (c.1485–1520) ‘The Jester’ ©Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery

For over two days now, this business with who is going to be the next Poet Laureate has been in my mind. The matter is slowly gathering momentum. The search for a new ‘Nation’s Poet’ is about to start at the end of this week. Social and mainstream media are already speculating possible candidates and appointments. What used to be a process surrounded by secrecy, appears to currently aim for better transparency and diversity. Three days ago, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media&Sport with the Department of Education launched an expert panel to advise on the selection of the next Poet Laureate.

15 experts from all over the U.K. will be working for six months to identify the best poet the country has to offer and suited for such honours. One assumes that a governmental announcement means money; travel, accommodation bills, meals, drinks, commissions paid. Realistically, the named experts haven’t temporarily left their current jobs just to sit in a hotel for six months and debate  without even be paid. This is the case when a pope is elected, for instance, and even in such circumstances it usually doesn’t take longer than a few weeks. [Though, one must recognise, the longest papal conclave took over two years. In the 13thcentury. One assumes that modern times, with the benefit of instant and simultaneous communication, have made the selection much easier. It is the era when everybody knows everything about everybody else.]

The tax payer will gladly fund this laureateship race as the government was clever at publicising, with news of the new panel, the relaunch of the National Poetry Competition in schools. [September next year though.] Parents are, probably, enthused by this and temporarily willing to overlook the black cloud looming over the British arts sector with Brexit ahead. They would have long forgotten 7% budget cuts in the arts sector implemented in 2013. Only a week ago, the government announced a slight increase in budget spending for arts, though it does not reach over 5%.

Anyone noticed the arts are still in deficit, with some museums, libraries, theatres, cinemas in a desolate financial situation?

Six months expenses for 15 experts could save a community library, a cinema, an independent publisher, an old press, a centre for youth; could create poetry bursaries. And the list could go on and on.

And what is all this for? Five thousand pounds a year and a barrel of sherry, for the privileges that come with these? Or is it just for giving the country the sense of ‘normality’ back? For the ‘glamour’? At least one of the favourites, poet Benjamin Zephaniah, has made his position clear this morning, ruling himself out of taking the title.

This development brings yet another question into focus. A question about the relevance of a ‘poet laureate’ as a cultural institution driven by bureaucracy, promoted by bureaucracy and privilege, out of touch with our times and defined by an identity crisis. To add a bit of context, it is worth mentioning that there are  just a few countries which still have a poet laureate. Among them are USA, Canada, Germany, Serbia, India, Turkey, Somalia, Nigeria, Iran and North Korea. The number is even smaller when we consider the countries which allow a prime minister to get involved.

And, finally, if this is about the ‘nation’s poet’ as the government says, has anybody asked the nation? Maybe this appointment, more than others, should be done by referendum, considering we have become experts at this too.

©Maria Stadnicka, 2018

 

Further reading:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-starts-selection-process-for-next-poet-laureate

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2018/oct/12/brexit-is-black-cloud-for-uk-arts-says-nicholas-hytner-national-theatre

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-23060049

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/poet-laureate-2018-benjamin-zephaniah-shortlist-announcement-when-carol-ann-duffy-a8619896.html

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Somnia

strange how bones hurt

at times of deep uncertainty

…a poetry master said…

… thinnest shields…

fragile body, when winter hits,

we firstly feel pain

with our teeth

 

 

©Maria Stadnicka, 2018

Your Stripes Represent My Future

 

There are a few things I don’t care about. And one of them is what royal is going to give birth to what royal. As my friend, Mickey Mouse, used to say in his song…

I remember you was conflictin’/

in a black dress under a white coat /

and I fought /

that face I’ve seen somewhere else /

in a movie about the abuse of power. 

La, la, la, la, la, lah! 

Those around me keep on running /

I stand and convince myself /

the stripes I’ve got represent my past /

but yours /

represent my future. 

La, la, la, la, la, lah! 

No chance in the doggy-doggy fight /

I’m convinced /

that dress is bullet proof

I’m convinced it’s against repetition

and revolution and honesty.

That dress is against me, babe!

Further information, in International Times.

Picket Line

Photography: @JStadnicki 2018

I wanna protest

against Trump but mama says

I’ve got eczema,

there’s ironing left

to do,

the lawn, the beds,

bleach,

scrub the stairlift,

move the mouse-trap from A to B

once I’ve finished with that I should

make a start at

boiling jam.

Seventy-quid-train-fare should feed us all

the week after the picket.

I wanna protest

against mama but Trump

turned the noise right up

in my slum we think

earmuffs should do

she has a whole load of washing

my homework needs checking

for subversive context

a neighbour lost a cat and

she’s now on the phone with 111.

I am not heard.

 

@Maria Stadnicka, 2018

Measurements

 

Photograph: ©John Stadnicki, Calais, August 2017

In Calais. Two years have passed since my visit to the ‘Jungle’ camp. Now demolished. Without migrants. And I get to measure time in a different way. Not as a linear construct or development or progress. In such matters, ‘time’ is not an objective concept. Time is measured in memories, stories which have been told and then forgotten, wasted. In Western political terminology, time is the dissociation from tragedy combined with the hopeless expectation of a historic healing. It is anonymous, evanescent. And so are thousands, millions across Europe and beyond.

Photograph: ©John Stadnicki, Calais, August 2017

Movement

Photograph ©John Stadnicki 2017

 

If we want the world to move forward,

we must hold hands. Documenting the pain and the joy,

on the same page,

with water, with fire, with ashes

not with ink.

 

Freedom means nothing when the healthy and the sick

eat at separate tables.

Even the trees sit together. They know that life is actually simple.

But once people renounced their entitlement,

it will take more than a revolution

to reclaim such a right.

 

For too long we took the wrong turn.

 

What kind of world is this if

the madman tells us that

we should be ashamed of ourselves?

©Maria Stadnicka, 2017

 

Published today in International Times with illustration produced by Nick Victor.

‘Plastic’ politics. In ‘International Times’

http://internationaltimes.it/plastic-2/

Illustration by Nick Victor copyright Published in International Times

The local MP came to visit today.
He played with his tie, in the half-empty boiling hot classroom.
Nobody offered him water.
He looked outside at the summery fog and
chewed his nails for an hour or so.
I tried to think of a question.
But all of them were already answered.
He paused and smiled at the camera.
I had a name badge around my neck.
He had nothing.
I sat on a tree-legged small plastic chair.
He sat on a piece of cake.