Copyrightfrom Public Property (Faber & Faber, 2003), copyright © Andrew Motion 2003, used by permission of the author and the publisher.
Full track listing for the special recording made for the Poetry Archive
Andrew Motion (b. 1952) read English at Oxford where he won the Newdigate Prize and spent two years studying the work of Edward Thomas, an abiding influence. This was followed by a stint teaching English at Hull University where he got to know Philip Larkin, another acknowledged mentor, whose official biographer he later became. He edited the Poetry Review, before becoming Poetry Editor at Chatto and Windus and, from 1996, Chairman of the Arts Council of England's Literature Panel. In 1999 he was appointed UK Poet Laureate, serving until 2009 as a high-profile champion of poetry. His work has been recognised by many awards including The Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the Dylan Thomas Award, the Somerset Maughan Award and the Whitbread Biography Award. He lives in London where he is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is also a Director of The Poetry Archive. He was knighted for his services to literature in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2009.
In Motion's characteristically reticent poems lives are often "shockingly interrupted" (Peter Forbes). His own mother's early death and the manner of it - a riding accident followed by ten years of intermittent coma - shadows many of his poems. Some deal directly with this trauma, whilst others touch on lives similarly curtailed by accident or war - Ann Frank, Princess Diana, and personal friends like Ruth Haddon whose death in the Marchioness disaster is commemorated in his beautiful elegy 'Fresh Water'. His poems question whether any meaning can be gleaned from life's random events. Or are we, like his mother's horse in 'Serenade' or the fox terrier in 'The Dog of the Light Brigade', "waiting for something important to happen, only nothing ever did,/beyond the next day and the next,"? The imagery of his poems echoes this lack of conclusion; several take place in the hiatus of twilight like the meeting of father and son in 'Veteran' in which the true nature of the former's war experiences remains "hidden in his words."
Motion has said "I want my writing to be as clear as water" and certainly both his language and delivery can be calm and reflective. However, this quote ends "I want readers to see all the way through its surfaces into the swamp" - the darkness this implies is also present in the sometimes surprising fierceness of his tone.
His recording was made for the Poetry Archive on 2 December 2004 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.
You can get it, free of charge, here.