When he retired from his decade-long term as Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion maintained that “banging the drum for poetry helps it to be a part of our visible and audible life”.
Throughout his 10-year stint by Royal appointment, he proudly exalted the merits of poetry to young and old alike and spent a great deal of time endeavouring to make it accessible to new and wider audiences.
And five years after he retired from the role, becoming the first Laureate in history to do so, it is something he is passionate about continuing.
“I always look forward to talking to people about my work,” said Sir Andrew, who heads to the South West this week to appear at the third Plymouth International Book Festival. “I think it is interesting for writers to meet their readers and potentially new ones (which festivals can make happen), but also I devoutly believe the pleasures and opportunities of poetry are deeply to do with it being something you hear aloud.”
As well as remaining an active writer, having recently started work on a new collection of poems to be published next year, Sir Andrew is arguably busier now than ever.
After rising early each morning to write, he fills the rest of his days with teaching, public speaking, and his role as President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. He also spends two days a week working on the Poetry Archive, an online initiative he began during his time as Laureate. Visited by more than 300,000 people every month, he believes it is proof that poetry and technology – though not the most obvious bedfellows – can function in harmony.
“Poetry is a very ancient and essentially primitive thing, so whatever history throws up it has deeply to do with pleasure and consolation and nothing can change that,” Sir Andrew continues. “Technology, by contrast, wants to make us read something and be done with it. But the archive’s viewing figures show that far from being an enemy of matters poetic, technology is enabling more people to read poetry now than at any time in the history of the human race.”