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Poet Laureates Come to Life in Edinburgh Exhibition

By Harriet Staff

Carol Ann Duffy at Poetry for the Palace show, 2014

In tandem with the Edinburgh Art Festival, a new exhibition brings the lives of poets laureate past and present to light at Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, where poets’ laureate personal ephemera and correspondences with royalty are on display. The show, “Poetry for the Palace: Poets Laureate from Dryden to Duffy” takes a close look at a few of the archaic traditions of the role, including, but not limited to, giving the poet laureate a butt of sherry.

“A crate of Oloroso – sounds like a dream,” wrote an excited Queen Mother to her friend the poet laureate Ted Hughes on hearing he was going to send her a few bottles. “I am not only very grateful but extremely touched that you should wish me to share in this lovely gift.”

The handwritten letter shines a light on the revival of a slightly eccentric tradition – giving the poet laureate a butt of sherry – and goes on public display for the first time in Edinburgh.

On Wednesday night guests at the opening of the exhibition, which is part of the Edinburgh Art Festival and explores 350 years of poets laureate, were drinking some of the fino given to the present incumbent, Carol Ann Duffy.

The show at Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, brings together original manuscripts and rare editions that poets have been presenting to monarchs since John Dryden was appointed by Charles II in 1668, though he was sacked in 1689 for refusing to swear allegiance to William and Mary. That has not happened since, and Duffy can be reasonably confident she will be all right; the show is in part a celebration of her five years in the job, a half-way mark in what is now a 10-year appointment.

Duffy described the display as a beautiful exhibition which brought the poems and poets to life, stirring “pride, in poets and poetry”. She said: “It is fascinating to see how we change as poets. The deference and the spin-doctoring of the early laureates has gone as the role has evolved.” […]

All this and more at The Guardian.

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Posted in Poetry News on Friday, August 8th, 2014 by Harriet Staff.