Benjamin Zephaniah will not work for 'oppressors' as poet laureate

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Writer and dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah has ruled himself out of becoming the next poet laureate, saying he has "absolutely no interest" in the role.

"I won't work for them. They oppress me, they upset me, and they are not worthy," he tweeted.

"I write to connect with people and have never felt the need to go via the church, the state, or the monarchy to reach my people. No money. Freedom or death."

The role will become vacant next year.

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Zephaniah has been mentioned as one potential successor to Dame Carol Ann Duffy, whose tenure will end in May 2019.

The poet laureate is an honorary position that is officially appointed by the Queen, acting on advice from the government. The holder is normally expected to write poetry to mark significant national occasions and royal events.

Zephaniah is an outspoken critic of the monarchy and turned down an OBE - Officer of the Order of the British Empire - in 2003.

At the time, he wrote in The Guardian: "Me? I thought, OBE me? Up yours, I thought."

He continued: "I get angry when I hear that word 'empire'; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised."

Other writers who have been suggested for poet laureate include Simon Armitage, Patience Agbabi, Daljit Nagra, Vahni Capildeo and Wendy Cope.

But Cope has also criticised the role in the past, calling it an "archaic post" with "ridiculous expectations attached to it".

"I have never wanted to be poet laureate," she told The Guardian in 2008. "I have nothing against the Royal Family but I wouldn't want to be under pressure to write poems about them."

A 15-strong advisory panel will put forward a shortlist for the next poet laureate to the culture secretary and prime minister, who will then recommend one name to the Queen.

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