Bitter About Pay, Poet Laureate Turns Catty

LONDON.  It took Britain 341 years to name a woman to the highly-prestigious but low-paid post of poet laureate, but Carol Ann Duffy, the first female and the first openly bisexual holder of the post as well, has made up for lost time.

Duffy:  “Come real close, within your hearing–what is the deal with those goofy earrings?”

“It’s always been dead white males like Dryden and Tennyson before me,” the plainspoken 54-year-old said in an interview, “although some were still alive when they were writing their pap.”

Tennyson:  “Sure I’m dead now, but I used to be alive.”

The poet laureate has traditionally composed verses for state occasions, such as the coronation of a monarch or the opening of a new wastewater treatment plant.  “You need to keep your poet laureate busy,” said Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, the official who officially made the official appointment when Duffy ascended to the office.  “We like to motor them around to ribbon-cuttings, easter egg hunts and dog shows, so they don’t stagnate.”

“Here we sit all broken-hearted; turned the key and couldn’t start it.”

But Duffy struck an adversarial tone from the outset, offering up as her first poem a 14-line sonnet about improper expenses submitted by members of Parliament, whose opening lines ruffled feathers across party lines:

You paid that much for cabfare from Heathrow?
You really paid through the nose!
Methinks instead you spent it on your mistress
upgrading her to silk stockings from panty hose.

Duffy has used her position to rain down scorn upon fashion faux pas by the Royal Family, saying she’d “rather be dead in a ditch” than be confined to writing “polite little rhymes” about Prince Charles, his consort Camilla Parker Bowles, and Charles’ sons by Lady Diana Spencer, William, the older one, and Harry, the Nazi one.

“If it’s all the same to you I’d rather not be petted
by someone who Scotland Yard hasn’t properly vetted.”

“Take the Queen, for example,” Duffy said to this reporter.  “I’ve got something for her right here,” she adds as she dashes off a couplet with a mood she refers to as the “New Cattiness” on a scrap of paper she pulls from her purse:

You like Corgis, I like cats- Where do you get those god-awful hats?

Duffy is, if anything, less charitable about Parker-Bowles, who has failed to replace Lady Di in the hearts of most Britons:

Camilla Parker-Bowles and Roger Daltrey: Separated at birth?

Your taste is deficient, your sense of style paltry
You look like a drag version of The Who’s Roger Daltrey.

Fun couple

The poet laureate receives an annual honorarium of 5,750 pounds, about $8,561, and unlimited free coffee refills at the British Department of Culture, Media and Sports cafeteria.  “We had to tell the last laureate that enough was enough,” says lunch lady Colleen Durley.  “All that caffeine was giving his poems a brittle, jumpy tone.”

Available in print and Kindle format on as part of the collection “poetry is kind of important.”


Royal Pain: Poet Laureate’s Japanese Movie Monster Jones Revealed

LONDON.  The position of poet laureate is considered a minor office here as the importance of the British monarchy has faded over time, but members of the Royal Family were nonetheless anxious whenever Andrew Motion, laureate for the first decade of this century, announced that he had finished a poem.

Mothra vs. Godzilla

“Motion became increasingly political over the years,” says Times Literary Supplement editor Philip Wathan, “beginning with ‘Regime Change’, a poem he wrote in 2003 about England’s role in the invasion of Iraq.  He was, in essence, living off the government at the same time he was criticizing it.”

Andrew Motion:  “Here I sit and think and ponder, my next poem ’bout a movie monster.”

The release of unpublished poems written by Motion during his tenure has reignited the controversy.  Motion’s state poems were supposed to celebrate the monarchy upon momentous events such as the marriage of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005, but on that occasion he composed “Spring Wedding,” a poem whose opening lines struck a satirical tone that came to dominate his verse:

I took the news outdoors 
    that you had married Parker Bowles
I couldn’t imagine why until it struck me–
    she’s built like one of your bloody horses.

“Charles, why is the poet laureate staring at me?”

Motion began to cloak his distaste for the monarchy in a new symbolic fabric, adopting the Japanese movie monster “Mothra”–a giant moth–to lampoon Queen Elizabeth in a rondeau entitled “Queen Mothra.”   Some critics said it was his metaphorical way of saying the monarchy had become extinct, like dinosaurs.

Mothra in flight

Those close to Motion say he became upset that his salary was small by comparison to Prince Charles’ polo expenditures, which generally consume over a quarter of the Royal Family’s annual 36.7 million pound budget.  “Motion should take a deep breath and exhale,” said Royal Stablemaster Andrew Cluny at the time.  “Polo pony feed costs a lot more than foolscap,” the official writing paper of the Department of Royal Poetry, Motion’s nominal employer.


Motion’s animus towards Prince Charles was frequently directed against Camilla Parker Bowles, who will become his consort once Charles ascends to the throne.  In a brief couplet that he dashed off in response to Charles’ request for a toast to Camilla on her birthday, Motion used simile to express his feelings:

Here’s a birthday wish to my darling Camilla
You slay me, babe, like a British Godzilla.


Motion was a great admirer of Lady Diana Spencer, Charles’ first wife, and remained bitter at what he considers the shabby treatment she received at the hands of the future king.  In his mournful “Lady Di–Like Rodan,” Motion drew a parallel between the doomed blond princess and Rodan, a flying dinousaur whose biggest box-office success was “Rodan vs. Godzilla”.


Rodan, part bird part dinosaur
You soar high in the sky
like Lady Di
only to crash down
to the ground
and die.