TRANSLATING THE BRITISH, 2012 by Carol Ann Duffy

There’s a split decision at Bella Towers over UK Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s newly published Olympics poem.  Kevin thinks it is “no bad” while Mike thinks it is “shit”.  We’d be interested to hear you thoughts….



A summer of rain, then a gap in the clouds

and The Queen jumped from the sky

to the cheering crowds.

We speak Shakespeare here,

a hundred tongues, one-voiced; the moon bronze or silver,

sun gold, from Cardiff to Edinburgh

by way of London Town,

on the Giant’s Causeway;

we say we want to be who we truly are,

now, we roar it. Welcome to us.

We’ve had our pockets picked,

the soft, white hands of bankers,

bold as brass, filching our gold, our silver;

we want it back.

We are Mo Farah lifting the 10,000 metres gold.

We want new running-tracks in his name.

For Jessica Ennis, the same; for the Brownlee brothers,

Rutherford, Ohuruogu, Whitlock, Tweddle,

for every medal earned,

we want school playing-fields returned.

Enough of the soundbite abstract nouns,

austerity, policy, legacy, of tightening metaphorical belts;

we got on our real bikes,

for we are Bradley Wiggins,

side-burned, Mod, god;

we are Sir Chris Hoy,

Laura Trott, Victoria Pendleton, Kenny, Hindes,

Clancy, Burke, Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas,

Olympian names.

We want more cycle lanes.

Or we saddled our steed,

or we paddled our own canoe,

or we rowed in an eight or a four or a two;

our names, Glover and Stanning; Baillie and Stott;

Adlington, Ainslie, Wilson, Murray,

Valegro (Dujardin’s horse).

We saw what we did. We are Nicola Adams and Jade Jones,

bring on the fighting kids.

We sense new weather.

We are on our marks. We are all in this together.

Comments (21)

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  1. Kind of thing you might expect from an average third year secondary pupil.

  2. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    She is by English by upbringing and Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom. She does what is required of her in the latter capacity. The former informs her political perspective. As to her poetry, a matter of taste surely.

  3. Derick fae Yell says:

    Doesna do it for me in any way whatsoever. Being Poet Laureate is the Kiss of Death for any poet!

  4. Scott says:

    Not even CAD can make ‘we want more cycle lanes’ a line of poetry.

  5. Paul Cochrane says:

    Twitter is replete with spoof s of this poem…much better than the original!

  6. Paul Cochrane says:

    “Chris Hoy cycling very fast / With big Olympian thighs / He would never cycle into / Iraq based on a dossier made of lies.”

  7. Frank Garden says:

    What a load of Wallop.

  8. Richard says:

    I’m inclined to agree with Mike and James.
    McGonagall could’ve done much better.

  9. JBS says:

    “We speak Shakespeare here”? Well, I suppose “the worst is not/
    So long as we can say ‘This is the worst.'”. The poem is tonally flat and formally flaccid. I think I’ll go back to reading Edwin Morgan, Kathleen Jamie, and W.N. Herbert.

  10. Appropriately illustrated with synchronised swimming, hold your nose and cheer the glitter. A bit weak and failed to capture the great rise of women athletes or the coursge of refugee Mo Farah.

  11. chicmac says:

    To be Free or not to be, that is the question.
    Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
    The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
    Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them.

  12. Barney Thomson says:

    I think Mike and James’ critique of the “poem” is too generous.

    Richard – WTMcG did!

  13. George Gunn says:

    This, I’m afraid is poor stuff. The “we” in the poem is not me, nor I suspect many Scots. To be so far inside the beast it must be hard to see the natural light, to feel the free outside. She is a better poet than this. I find it depressing, when the world is there to be seen, that writers with eyes to see and the wherwithall to tell the truth do not do so. The Daily Mail will love this.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      It is the assumed shared identity that I find difficult, it is for me a culture extension of the anglosphere that pervades British life. I think the poetry’s a bit cheesy to.

  14. pmcrek says:

    The phrase “pile of pish” springs to mind.

  15. Kenneth MacColl says:

    I think Mike has got it by a long way!

  16. megabreath2 says:

    weak poetry.Written to order I imagine.Duffy has written much better.Just the curse of the laureate.ted Hughes wrote some pretty awful stuff as Laureate too.ahh well……………

  17. This would need to be a very adult site for me to express an honest opininion of this utter garbage. Did Posh Boy write it for her?

  18. chobbers1 says:

    Well I thought it was alright. It didn’t plagiarise anyone (certainly not Deena Stryker) except herself (Translating The English 1989) and it captured a moment. Over to you George Gunn…

  19. James Morton says:

    With Many Apologies to Hunter Thompson:

    There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Thames, then up the Scotland, wales and across to Ireland . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.
    Finally a nation united under a common Flag.

    So there it was at last “Britishness” defined in concrete terms. The Butchers apron detoxified. Not in any mean or political sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in referendums, the issue was settled — on our side not theirs. We had all the momentum, all the power; we were Britannia riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.

    But now, less than two weeks later, you can go up on any steep hill in the British isles and look south, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back to reveal Prince harry’s jewels and Rhiana getting gunged on Back Brother.

    Weclome to the UK – It’s business as usual

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