£900 Poetry Book/Laureate Hunt – Poetry News Roundup February 25th

We begin the week here on My Poetic Side with a look at the £900 poetry book. We also have an article about the hunt for the new poet laureate.

Poem Book Selling on Amazon for £900

Henry Mair, the Irvine writer and poet, who has been writing for almost 50 years, was amazed to discover that “Alone I Rebel”, his acclaimed autobiography, which contains a number of poems, was listed on Amazon with a selling price of £910.48.

He believes it is the scarcity of the book that has afforded it such a high price tag. The book was part of a small run of just 1000. Mair went all over the world to promote it travelling to Edinburgh, London and even Moscow where it was particularly popular amongst younger Russians. The book as inspired by the poet’s uncle, who died in a doss house in Leicester after a number of years of sleeping rough.

For 25 years, Mair ran the Scottish International Open Poetry Competition. It was during this time that he met Hugh MacDiarmid, at the 1972 competition. MacDiarmid, together with Robert Burns and Edwin Morgan were some of the biggest influences on his writing.

Mair said that while it was wonderful to see that one of his books might possibly fetch a very good price, he wasn’t going to let it go to his head. There is a good chance that with only 1000 printed there are probably not that many copies out there.

Does Anyone Want to be Poet Laureate?

It really isn’t that long until Carol Ann Duffy will be stepping down at the end of her time as Poet Laureate and it seems that there is something of a problem finding someone to take on the role. Of course, there is the prestige that comes with the title, but the pay isn’t great, £6000 a year and a “butt of sack” (cask of sherry), and the insults can be rather vicious.

The list of former poet laureates is certainly rather illustrious with names like John Skelton, William Wordsworth, and Ted Hughes to name just a few. And anyone following in the footsteps of Duffy may well find themselves with a hard act to follow. Duffy has given away her sherry each year to a charitable cause, and in 2009 she founded the Ted Hughes Award which she funds entirely from her laureate salary – any cash strapped person who does take on the role may find this a problematic tradition to uphold.

A group of 15 experts have put together a list of just four or five candidates for the role, culled from a much longer list following talks with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). From this list, they will make their selection – however with poets like Benjamin Zephaniah having already stated they would not accept the role they may end up making a second choice. This was the situation in 1984 when Philip Larkin turned the post down. The final decision is then passed to the Prime Minister and then to the Queen as a formality.

It really is just a question of waiting now to see who gets the final vote from the experts.



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