The acclaimed poet Imtiaz Dharker has turned down the poet laureateship, the highest honour in British poetry, citing a need to focus on her writing – and despite reports that she was set to be named as the next holder of the position.
“I had to weigh the privacy I need to write poems against the demands of a public role. The poems won,” Dharker, who was born in Pakistan and grew up in Glasgow, said. “It was a huge honour to be considered for the role of poet laureate and I have been overwhelmed by the messages of support and encouragement from all over the world.”
Although it was reported by the Sunday Times last week that Dharker was due to be announced as laureate this month, the Guardian understands that no formal offer has been made to or accepted by any candidate for the laureateship, and that the selection process is still under way, with Dharker giving way to other contenders on Friday.
The laureateship is not known for bringing the muse of poetry to its incumbents. Andrew Motion, who was laureate from 1999 to 2009, called the role “very, very damaging to my work”, saying while still in post: “I dried up completely about five years ago and can’t write anything except to commission.” The public-facing position grants an annual stipend of £5,750 – used by the current laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, to fund a new poetry prize – and, traditionally, a “butt of sack”, equivalent to roughly 600 bottles of sherry.