University of Leeds Professor of Poetry Simon Armitage has been appointed the UK’s new Poet Laureate. He succeeds Dame Carol Ann Duffy in the 351-year-old role, becoming the 21st Poet Laureate for a fixed term of ten years. Professor Armitage said: “It’s a huge honour to be appointed Poet Laureate, one of the great high offices of literature. Over the past two decades the laureateship has become a working role, with previous laureates actively involved in the promotion of poetry and in numerous initiatives to identify and encourage talent, especially within education and among younger writers; I hope to build on the work of my predecessors with energy and enthusiasm.”
Sir Alan Langlands, University of Leeds Vice-Chancellor, said: “We warmly congratulate Simon on this wonderful news. The laureateship is well-deserved and, crucially, has gone to a poet who will be a tireless ambassador for poetry in the public arena. As the first Professor of Poetry in our School of English his contribution to developing the next generation of poets has already been invaluable.”
Dr Fiona Becket, Head of the School of English, added: “At a time when poetry is everywhere and is engaging wide and diverse audiences, Simon’s voice is central. He has long been an enduring and powerful presence, and a shaper of contemporary poetry in so many ways – from encouraging writers at the start of their careers, being supportive of activity which raises the profile of poetry and, in his work, exploring multiple environments for new writing.”
Professor Armitage said he was looking forward to combining his poet laureate duties with his activities at Leeds, which have ranged from enthusing prospective students at University open days to teaching, lecturing and outreach work in the city and beyond.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my first 18 months or so as Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds and I don’t want my relationship with it to change,” he said, adding that he was particularly proud of the School of Night, a fortnightly reading group established on his arrival at Leeds. “It’s simply students, staff and members of the public sharing two hours’ enjoyment of poetry. People are really engaged with poetry when you put the right stuff in front of them.”
Professor Armitage has also been closely involved in the establishment of a poetry prize aimed at nurturing emerging talent. Shortlisting is currently underway for the Brotherton Poetry Prize, organised by the University of Leeds Poetry Centre.