A Laureate's Life

Series examining laureateship around the world.

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
Comments
01Charles Simic *20090427

Poet Charles Simic, a former American laureate, reveals how he wanted to turn down the offer of the job.

He reveals how he wanted to turn the post down but was talked into it by his children, and how he refused offers to perform for the 'official Washington' and at the White House.

Though initially sceptical about the role, he concludes that 'there's nothing more interesting or hopeful about America than its poetry'.

02Michele Leggott *20090428

Poet Michele Leggott recalls her first year as New Zealand's laureate and how she coped with losing her eyesight as she travelled the world and explored her new role.

Her tokotoko - the laureate's traditional wooden stick - is made out of a pool cue painted blue.

As her sight fades, Michele realises that 'my blue stick has quietly prepared the way for my white stick'.

Poet Michele Leggott recalls her first year as New Zealand's laureate.

03Keorapetse Kgositsile *20090429

discusses the role of poet laureate in South Africa.

He is the latest in a line of 'imbongi', whose role, he argues, is often misunderstood.

He isn't there just to praise the great in South African society, but also, as he says, 'to employ every known literary and poetic device to mock, jeer, castigate and criticise anyone in his community, from the king down to the lowliest subject'.

Keorapetse Kgositsile discusses the role of poet laureate in South Africa.

04Gillian Clarke *20090430

Gillian Clarke discusses becoming the first poet writing in English to hold the post of laureate of Wales.

She describes how she feels the ghosts of Welsh poets behind her and how in Wales she can describe her profession as 'poet' without embarrassment.

As Gillian puts it, 'Cardiff taxi-drivers with bardic ancestors are surprisingly common'.

Her commissions have included a poem for a bottled water label which had to praise the Brecon Beacons and include the words 'still' and 'sparkling'.

05 LASTJack Hirschman20090501

San Francisco street poet Jack Hirschman looks back at his time as the city's laureate.

A well-known activist on the far left, he discusses his place in the city's artistic hierarchy and how he considers himself less a laureate and more a 'cultural worker'.