John Betjeman meets Clinton Cards
In the course of his musical odyssey, Nigel has described his lyrical talents as ‘John Betjeman meets Clinton cards’ (Betjeman is a poet). It got us thinking that an event as epoch-defining as a home Olympics is surely the moment for a nation's poets to shine. So, let’s take a brief look at what is surely one of the strangest jobs in the UK.
In Britain, one of the earliest recognised Poet Laureates was Ben Jonson who was given the position by King James I in 1617. The appointment evolved from the earlier practice of including minstrels and versifiers as part of the King’s advisors. The Poet Laureate is a salaried role, and unusually traditionally includes some alcohol too. Ben Jonson received a pension of 100 marks and later an annual "terse of Canary Wine” whereas Tennyson preferred cold hard cash, drawing a whopping £99 "in lieu of the butt of sack." The current British Poet Laureate is Carol Ann Duffy. She is the first woman, first Scot, and the first openly gay person to hold the position. Her Olympic poem ‘Eaton Manor’ can be found here.
The National Lottery have also seen fit to organise a crowd-sourced poem 'Breathe', displayed in the Olympic Park. The lines included have been written by 12 winners chosen from the 12 lottery-funding regions. Listen to it here, as read by 'Voice of the Balls' Alan Dedicoat.