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'I won't work for them': Benjamin Zephaniah rules himself out of becoming Poet Laureate

By Annabal Bagdi | Birmingham | Birmingham entertainment | Published:

Writer Benjamin Zephaniah has fiercely ruled himself out of the race to be the next Poet Laureate.

Benjamin Zephaniah

The poet had been pitched as one of the contenders for the honorary role but has since claimed he has 'absolutely no interest' in the job.

It comes after it was announced current Poet Laureate Dame Carol Ann Duffy would step down from the position next May.

Responding to claims he could be named the next to take the title, Birmingham poet Zephaniah tweeted: "I have absolutely no interest in this job. I won't work for them. They oppress me, they upset me, and they are not worthy.

"I write to connect with people and have never felt the need to go via the church, the state, or the monarchy to reach my people. No money. Freedom or death."

A panel of literary experts has already been appointed to advise the Queen on who she should select to take up the role for the next decade.

Nominations are set to close in December, when the panel will agree a shortlist for consideration by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

A final recommendation will then be put forward by Prime Minister Theresa May to the Queen next spring before a new Poet Laureate is named in May.

Other potential successors have been named as Simon Armitage, Patience Agbabi, Daljit Nagra, Vahni Capideo and Wendy Cope.

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Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: "Poetry has the power to connect us to people, places and ideas. It also cuts across social and cultural divides.

"The important role of Poet Laureate helps to record key moments in British history and celebrates our rich literary tradition.

"I pay tribute to Dame Carol Ann Duffy for her dedicated service in championing poetry to the nation.

"I look forward to working with a new advisory panel, that reflects the whole of the UK and the new ways we consume poetry, in electing her successor."

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Dame Duffy, who was appointed in 2009, was the first woman and first Scot to take up the post in its 350-year history.

She has donated the role's annual £5,750 salary to the Poetry Society to fund a writing prize.

The position used to be granted for life until 1999 when the then Poet Laureate Andrew Motion served a fixed 10-year term.

Poet Laureates often produce poetry for national occasions and Royal events, although they are not required to do so.

Dame Duffy has penned poems to mark occasions including the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the deaths of Henry Allingham and Harry Patch - the last two British soldiers to fight in the First World War.

Annabal Bagdi

By Annabal Bagdi
@AnnabalB_Star

Senior reporter based at head office in Wolverhampton.

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