Society in the Role of the Artist


When each of us put ourselves in the shoes of someone else,

which we agreed was the best and ultimate hope of all artists,

we found the work of government became highly complicated.

No one wanted to operate in the same way as their neighbour.


Everyone insisted on laws made according to their own wishes.

It was an irony not lost on us. We had always wanted society

to value the sound of each individual voice, but the reality

meant all our studio and writing time was taken in argument.


Soon we were protesting in favour of a return to the old ways.

Restore society, we chanted – at least we came together on that.

Give us back pricks we can kick against, who also pay our wages.

Society of course was only too happy to oblige, and soon enough


the pen-pushers returned to their glassy offices, the rich patrons

to sale rooms, and prize committees to ticking the correct boxes.

We artists knew where we were then, insisting that everyone

see the world differently. Deciding how to live is another matter.


Andrew Motion – Poet, Novelist and Biographer; Former Poet Laureate


Photo credit: Johnny Ring