Westminster’s Poet’s Corner
When I was a little kid, every once in a while I’d do something bad – you know, typical kid’s stuff – fighting with my sister, breaking something, that one day that will forever go down in Curtis History Books as “The Butter Incident”… you know, typical kid’s stuff. Sometimes, when I got into a little bit of trouble, I’d have to sit in the corner and “think about what I’d done.” I hardly ever thought about anything other than what a ridiculous punishment that was.
Regardless, the folks over at Westminster Abbey in London, must not think of corners as a place for punishment – instead, they have a corner of the Abbey that’s a place of honor. They call it “Poet’s Corner,” but it’s not just for poets – authors, actors, playwrights, and even a few dancers and artists have been given the honor of having the Poet’s Corner as their final resting place.
Way back in 1556, Geoffrey Chaucer – the author of the famous story The Canterbury Tales - became the first person given the honor. Now, this probably had more to do with Chaucer’s job as one of the “Clerks of Works” at the Palace of Westminster (that’s the big building with Big Ben attached to it), not so much to do with his writing. However, that was in the year 1400. 156 years later, there wasn’t much left of Ole Geoff except his bones – some guy decided to honor him with a huge, magnificent tomb in the Southern transept of the church. Forty-three years later, another poet, a guy named Edmund Spenser, was given the same treatment and the poet’s corner became a tradition.
When we stand there in Westminster Abbey, in the Poet’s Corner, we’ll see the final resting places of some incredibly famous names including Robert Browning, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, and Alfred Tennyson, and memorials to Jane Austen, William Blake, the Bronte sisters, Elizabeth Browning, Lord Byron, Lewis Carroll, William Shakespeare, and Oscar Wilde. If you’re only in 8th grade, not all of those names will mean something to you, but in high school you’ll read works of almost all of them, and two of those guys wrote stories that were turned into Disney movies you’ve likely seen a dozen times.
Still today, people who have made significant contributions to British culture are either interred (not really buried since they aren’t in the ground) or memorialized (meaning their remains aren’t there, but there is a plaque, statue, bust, tablet, or memorial to them) in the Poet’s Corner. The most recent addition will be in November of 2013 when C.S. Lewis, the author of the Narnia books, will be given a memorial 50 years after his death.
I spent a lot of time in that corner “thinking about what I’d done” when I was a kid, but maybe, just maybe, I can turn “The Butter Incident” into a best selling novel someday – then I can end up in the Poet’s Corner when my time here is done. It would be pretty awesome that even though the original Butter Incident ended with me having to paint the kitchen ceiling if the novel version ended with me honored in Westminster Abbey.
Besides Mr. Curtis, author of the best-selling The Butter Incident, is there a poet or author you’re interested in seeing in the Poet’s Corner?