Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Friday, August 14, 2009

the Nation's Favourite Poet

So the BBC wants you to vote for the Nation’s Favourite Poet. Or it wants some people to vote, anyway — I’m a little confused because I’m not sure what “nation” the good ol’ Beeb has in mind. England? Great Britain? The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? Or perhaps something more amorphous: Albion, say, or the British Isles?

The nominated poets themselves aren't much of a guide. In addition to the many who lived all their lives in England, there’s Robert Burns (a Scot), W. B. Yeats (born in Dublin), Seamus Heaney (born in Northern Ireland, but an Irish citizen), T. S. Eliot (born in St. Louis, later became a British subject), W. H. Auden (born in York, later became an American citizen). It’s all so very confusing. And it’s odd that Shakespeare is not, for these purposes, considered a poet. He was one, you know.

Apparently the two qualifications for nomination are: (a) you must have lived in one or more of the British Isles for some significant chunk of your life, and (b) you must write in English.

I voted for Auden, of course. So should you.


  • I voted for Wordsworth. So there.

  • Some time ago the Modern Library Top 100 Reader's Lists were utterly bombarded by hordes of Ayn Rand and L. Ron Hubbard devotees. Perhaps here an Auden-mania campaign will ride in on a swelling wave of Horatian civic virtue, thus carrying the day.

  • G.M. Hopkins all the way. After all, my blog is RootsRain... send my roots rain...

    I probably would have gone with Milton next. Maybe Ted Hughes after that.

    Notice they didn't have Shakespeare on that list. I guess they figured that would make everyone else irrelevant. Or the poll would be too boring, at least.

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