Carol Ann Duffy is Britain’s greatest living poet and certainly one of the most popular and entertaining. Her work is studied at schools and universities throughout the English-speaking world.
She has been producing poems from the age of 11. When one of her English teachers died, she wrote: “You sat on your desk,/ swinging your legs, reading a poem by Yeats/ to the bored girls, except my heart stumbled and blushed/ as it fell in love with the words and I saw the tree/ in the scratched old desk under my hands, heard the bird in the oak outside scribble itself on the air.”
In May 2009, she became the first woman and the first Scot to be appointed poet laureate in the UK. In her first poem as poet
laureate, Duffy tackled the scandal over British MPs expenses in the format of a sonnet. Her second, “Last Post”, was commissioned by the BBC to mark the deaths of Henry Allingham and Harry Patch, the last two British soldiers to fight in World War I. In March 2010, she wrote “Achilles (for David Beckham)” about the Achilles tendon injury that left England Footballer David Beckham out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup; the poem was published in The Daily Mirror and treats modern celebrity culture as a kind of mythicisation.
Duffy wrote a 46 line poem Rings for the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. The poem celebrates the rings found in nature and does not specifically mention the couple’s names. In a Stylist magazine, Duffy said of becoming poet laureate “There’s no requirement. I do get asked to do things and so far I’ve been happy to do them.” Her poems are studied in British schools at GCSE, A-level, and Higher levels.
What the critics said:
“Part of Duffy’s talent – besides her ear for ordinary eloquence, her gorgeous, powerful, throwaway lines, her subtlety – is her ventriloquism. Like the best of her novelist peers … she slides in and out of her characters’ lives on a stream of possessions, aspirations, idioms and turns of phrase.” – Charlotte Mendelson, The Observer.
Writing for The Independent, Ruth Padel called Duffy’s collection, Rapture, “a superb demonstration of … Duffy’s formidably inventive artistry, her dedication to the craft and tradition of poetry, and above all the love poem.”
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