Queen Elizabeth: Tributes by makars and poet laureates are no easy artistic feats – Laura Waddell
I do not envy the job of makars and poet laureates tasked with creating current affairs-themed verse.
It’s a privilege, but think also of the pressure in having to come up with something appropriate in tone, creative in content, and somehow not fawning or naff, to be received by a wide audience at an emotive moment in history as peers pass judgement from the sidelines.
Writers dream of being booked and busy, of leaving behind significant and beloved works, but the condition of writing in any official, representative, dutiful capacity tests the tension between turning in a piece of work to order and the inspiration in writing at will.
What spurs words on and holds them back is different for all; it’s a particular bugbear of mine when personal routines and lifestyle gimmicks of historic writers are offered as serious suggestions to aspiring writers, whether rising at 5am, or whisky and psychedelics. But it might generally be said that while some concoct their very best works in a state of rapid reaction and sense of civic duty, many do not.
In tribute to Queen Elizabeth have arrived Lochnagar by Kathleen Jamie, Floral Tribute by Simon Armitage (which takes the quirky route of spelling out Elizabeth in acrostic not once but twice – why?), and, not to be left out, former laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s nostalgic Daughter, populated by anglers and farmers in tweed caps.
Few in Britain had an intimate relationship with the Queen, and so it’s no surprise these poetic tributes all choose to focus on the nation’s flora and fauna, uncontroversial symbols, distant and easy to like.
Explaining the rationale behind her poem, Jamie tactfully said: "The poem speaks to the landscape. In this, I find I can have something in common with the Queen: a love of the Scottish landscape. So, when I was thinking about how to make the poem, my imagination went to that part of the Scottish landscape that she loved so well.”
Jamie’s rolling pronunciation and repetition of Lochnagar is soothing and solid, highlighting with deceptive simplicity the rugged beauty of our language and landscape.
But there's some fresh air in there too: left unsaid is what the two did not have in common, a little breathing space for reader to meet poet, to fill in the gaps.
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