British Poet Laureates

Poet Laureates

A poet laureate is a poet officially given a title by the government to a well known poet. It is assumed that the poet will at certain times write poetry for a specific national event.

In England the first Poet Laureate was Ben Johnson, although it is not clear whether he was officially given the position. Since 1688 there have been 17 poets and the most recent successors have been John Betjeman (1972-84), Ted Hughes (1984-98), and Andrew Motion (1999- ).

Until 1999 the title was bestowed for life and the holder was rewarded with an annual present of wine; it is now a salaried post with a fixed tenure of 10 years.

In America the first official Poet Laureate was Robert Penn Warren in 1985 although an unofficial position has existed since 1937. The title usually lasts for a year although it can be renewed and begins in May. Louise Gluck is the current American Poet Laureate.

Poet Laureates include:

  • Ben Johnson 1616 -1637
  • 1670 John Dryden
  • 1689 Thomas Shadwell
  • 1692 Nahum Tate
  • 1715 Nicholas Rowe
  • 1718 Rev’d Laurence Eusden
  • 1730 Colley Cibber
  • 1757 William Whitehead, on the refusal of Thomas Gray
  • 1785 Rev’d Thomas Warton, on the refusal of William Mason
  • 1790 Henry James Pye
  • 1813 Robert Southey, on the refusal of Sir Walter Scott
  • William Wordsworth (1843-1850
  • Alfred Tennyson (1850 – 1896)
  • 1896 Alfred Austin, on the refusal of William Morris
  • 1913 Robert Bridges
  • 1930 John Masefield, OM
  • 1967 Cecil Day-Lewis, CBE
  • 1972 Sir John Betjeman, CBE
  • 1984 Ted Hughes, OBE (widower of Sylvia Plath), on the refusal of Philip Larkin
  • 1999 Professor Andrew Motion

Poet Laureates from Other Countries

Some Information used from Poet Laureates at Wikipedia

Books on Poet Laureates at

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