Andrew Motion will end his 10-year tenure as poet laureate of Great Britain. He gives this advice to the next person who will hold this job. The selection procedure is in process.
Between the lines: Andrew Motion's advice to the next poet laureate
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday November 26 2008 00.01 GMT
"Be warned. If you interpret the job as I have done - that being poet laureate means not just writing poems but trying to champion poetry - you will find there is an unimaginable difference between leading a relatively private life and the public life suddenly required of you. It is not just about having to get up early to appear on the Today programme. It is everything that comes with having your life picked over.
"Be aware of the almost continual slew of requests to do or write this or that. It took me a while to work out what I could and should say no to. Part of the job, of course, is that the poet is required to write on public occasions. These poems can be difficult to write; left-handed poems written with a right hand, so to speak. They have a tendency to excite news editors to ring people up until they can find someone to say how much they dislike them - which is far from easy to deal with. The royal poems I have written I think belong in a slightly different place from my normal stream of work, which isn't to say I disown them. They were particular responses to particular moments.
"Do not wear yourself out. Keep enough time for your own writing. That is not just a question of getting up an hour earlier; it means the more difficult task of preserving staring-off time, thinking time. The laureateship takes over your life. An American publication described it as "a double-edged chalice". A ridiculous mixed metaphor, but true enough. There are so many pressures, exposures, demands and wearinesses. But it is also a post full of opportunities to do good things for poetry. What I am proudest of is the establishment of the online Poetry Archive, where a million pages of poetry are read each month. I couldn't have done it without being poet laureate; I couldn't have raised the money or had the ear of people in government.
When people say that the post is hopelessly outmoded - well, in a way it is. But it creates the chance to do things for poetry that are unique. I have enjoyed it. But I am looking forward to enjoying a little more peace, and a little more privacy."
• Andrew Motion, speaking to Charlotte Higgins