Simon Armitage, the poet, playwright and novelist from Yorkshire who was appointed Poet Laureate in May of 2019 was recently in Jerez to participate in a longstanding tradition. Since the 17th century, poet laureates have been gifted a butt of Sherry (720 bottles) to celebrate their appointment, and Armitage traveled to the southern city to collect his lot.
He said, on his visit, “I hope to put [the bottles] to good use—as gifts and prizes to raise money in the name of poetry—now needed more than ever before. My wife drew the image of the cuckoo on the front label. The bird has a folklore connection with the village of Marsden where I grew up and where so many of my poems are rooted. My dialect poem, ‘The Phoenix,’ appears on the reverse of the label and tells a version of the Marsden cuckoo story. There’s an annual Cuckoo Festival in the village, perhaps some sherry will be involved in forthcoming years and become part of the tradition itself!”
There have always been close ties between sherry and the literary world, as this fortified wine has often been mentioned in the works of Dickens, Shakespeare, Pepys, and Chaucer, among others.