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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Carol Ann Duffy

June 2009
Born 23 December 1955 (1955-12-23) (age 54)
Glasgow, Scotland
Occupation Poet, playwright
Language English
Nationality Scottish
Ethnicity Scottish/Irish
Education B.A. (Hons) Philosophy
Alma mater University of Liverpool
Notable award(s) OBE 1995; CBE 2002; poet laureate 2009
Children Ella (born 1995) with Peter Benson
Relative(s) May Black (mother) died 2005; Frank Duffy (father)

Carol Ann Duffy, CBE, FRSL (born 23 December 1955 in Glasgow) is a Scottish poet and playwright. She is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at the Manchester Metropolitan University, and was appointed Britain's poet laureate in May 2009.[1] She is the first woman, the first Scot, and the first openly bisexual person to hold the position, as well as the first laureate to be chosen in the 21st century.[2]

Her collections include Standing Female Nude (1985), winner of a Scottish Arts Council Award; Selling Manhattan (1987), which won a Somerset Maugham Award; Mean Time (1993), which won the Whitbread Poetry Award; and Rapture (2005), winner of the T. S. Eliot Prize. Her poems address issues such as oppression, gender, and violence, in an accessible language that has made them popular in schools.[3]


Early life and career

Duffy was born to a Roman Catholic family in the Gorbals, a rough part of Glasgow, in 1955, the first child of Scot Frank Duffy, an electrical fitter whose grandparents were Irish, and May Black, who was Irish herself.[4] The couple went on to have another four children, all boys, the family moving to Stafford, England, when Duffy was six years old. "I lost a river, culture, speech, sense of first space/and the right place? Now, Where do you come from?/strangers ask. Originally? And I hesitate."[5] Her father worked for English Electric. He was also a trade unionist, and stood unsuccessfully as a parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party in 1983, managing Stafford Rangers football club in his spare time.[4]

Duffy was educated in Stafford at Saint Austin's RC Primary School (1962–1967), St. Joseph's Convent School (1967–1970), and Stafford Girls' High School (1970–1974), her literary talent encouraged by two English teachers, June Scriven at St Joseph's, and Jim Walker at Stafford Girls' High.[4] She was a passionate reader from an early age, and always wanted to be a writer, 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." [6]

When Duffy was 15, June Scriven sent some of her poems to Outposts, a publisher of pamphlets, where it was read by the bookseller Bernard Stone, who published some of them. When she was 16, she met Adrian Henri, the English poet, and decided she wanted to be with him, living with him until 1982. "He gave me confidence," she said, "he was great. It was all poetry and sex, very heady, and he was never faithful. He thought poets had a duty to be unfaithful."[7] She applied to the University of Liverpool to be near him, and began a philosophy degree there in 1974. She had two plays performed at the Liverpool Playhouse, wrote a pamphlet, Fifth Last Song, and received an honours degree in philosophy in 1977.[4]

She worked as poetry critic for The Guardian from 1988–1989, and was editor of the poetry magazine, Ambit. In 1996, she was appointed as a lecturer in poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University, and later became creative director of its Writing School.[3] She was almost appointed Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom in 1999 after the death of Ted Hughes, but lost out on the position to Andrew Motion. Duffy said she would not have accepted the position at that time anyway, because she was in a relationship with Scottish poet Jackie Kay, had a young daughter, and would not have welcomed the public attention.[8] She was appointed instead in May 2009, when Motion's 10-year term was over.

Duffy was featured on the South Bank Show with Melvyn Bragg on 6 December 2009, during which she read some of her work,[9] and 7 December, she presented the Turner Prize to artist Richard Wright.[10]



Duffy's work explores both everyday experience and the rich fantasy life of herself and others. In dramatizing scenes from childhood, adolescence, and adult life, she discovers moments of consolation through love, memory, and language. Charlotte Mendelson writes in The Observer:

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. However, she is also a time-traveller and a shape-shifter, gliding from Troy to Hollywood, galaxies to intestines, sloughed-off skin to department stores while other poets make heavy weather of one kiss, one kick, one letter ... from verbal nuances to mind-expanding imaginative leaps, her words seem freshly plucked from the minds of non-poets – that is, she makes it look easy.[11]

Of her own writing, Duffy has said, "I'm not interested, as a poet, in words like 'plash'—Seamus Heaney words, interesting words. I like to use simple words, but in a complicated way."[4] She told The Observer: "Like the sand and the oyster, it's a creative irritant. In each poem, I'm trying to reveal a truth, so it can't have a fictional beginning."[12]

Duffy rose to greater prominence in UK poetry circles after her poem "Whoever She Was" won the Poetry Society National Poetry Competition in 1983.[13] In her first collection, Standing Female Nude (1985), she uses the voices of outsiders, for example in the poems 'Education for Leisure' and 'Dear Norman'. Her next collection Feminine Gospels (2002) continues this vein, showing an increased interest in long narrative poems, accessible in style and often surreal in their imagery. Her 2005 publication, Rapture (2005), is a series of intimate poems charting the course of a love affair, for which she won the £10,000 T.S. Eliot Prize. In 2007, she published The Hat, a collection of poems for children. Online copies of her poems are rare, but her poem dedicated to U A Fanthorpe, Premonitions, is available through The Guardian,[14] and several others via The Daily Mirror.[15] [16]

In schools

Her poems are studied in British schools at GCSE, A-level, and Higher levels.[17] In August 2008, her Education for Leisure, a poem about violence, was removed from the AQA examination board's GCSE poetry anthology, following a complaint about its references to knife crime and a goldfish being flushed down a toilet. The poem begins, "Today I am going to kill something. Anything./I have had enough of being ignored and today/I am going to play God." The protagonist kills a fly, then a goldfish. The budgie panics and the cat hides. It ends with him, or her, leaving the house with a knife. "The pavements glitter suddenly. I touch your arm."[18]

According to The Guardian, schools were urged to destroy copies of the unedited anthology.[18] Duffy called the decision ridiculous. "It's an anti-violence poem," she said. "It is a plea for education rather than violence." She responded with Mrs Schofield's GCSE, a poem about violence in other fiction, and the point of it. "Explain how poetry/pursues the human like the smitten moon/above the weeping, laughing earth ..."[19] The Mrs. Schofield of the title refers to Pat Schofield, an external examiner at Lutterworth College, Leicestershire, who complained about Education for Leisure, calling it "absolutely horrendous".[20]

As poet laureate

In her first poem as poet laureate, Duffy tackled the scandal over British MPs expenses in the format of a 14 line sonnet.[21] 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.[22] Her third, The Twelve Days of Christmas 2009, addresses current events such as species extinction, the climate change conference in Copenhagen, the banking crisis, and the war in Afghanistan.[23]In March 2010 she wrote Achilles (for David Beckham) about the Achilles tendon injury that left England Footballer David Beckham out of the 2010 world cup. [24]

Plays and songs

Duffy is also a playwright, and has had plays performed at the Liverpool Playhouse and the Almeida Theatre in London. Her plays include Take My Husband (1982), Cavern of Dreams (1984), Little Women, Big Boys (1986) Loss (1986), Casanova (2007). Her radio credits include an adaptation of Rapture.[25] Her children's collections include Meeting Midnight (1999) and The Oldest Girl in the World (2000).

She also collaborated with the Manchester composer, Sasha Johnson Manning, on The Manchester Carols, a series of Christmas songs that premiered in Manchester Cathedral in 2007.

Honours and awards

She holds honorary doctorates from the University of Dundee, the University of Hull, the University of St Andrews, and the University of Warwick, as well as an Honorary Fellowship at Homerton College, Cambridge. She was awarded an OBE in 1995, and a CBE in 2002.[1] Other awards include (each year links to corresponding "[year] in poetry" article):


  • 1974: Fleshweathercock and Other Poems, Outposts[26]
  • 1977: (with Adrian Henri) Beauty and the Beast (poetry)
  • 1982: Fifth Last Song Headland (poetry)
  • 1982: Take My Husband (play)[27]
  • 1984: Cavern of Dreams (play)
  • 1985: Standing Female Nude Anvil Press Poetry (poetry)
  • 1986: Little Women, Big Boys (play)
  • 1986: Loss (radio play)
  • 1986: Thrown Voices, Turret Books, a pamphlet (poetry)[28]
  • 1987: Selling Manhattan Anvil Press Poetry (poetry)
  • 1990: The Other Country Anvil Press Poetry (poetry)
  • 1992: Editor. I Wouldn't Thank You for a Valentine Viking (poetry anthology)[29]
  • 1992: William and the Ex-Prime Minister Anvil Press Poetry, a 16-page pamphlet, ISBN 978-0856462535 (poetry).
  • 1993: Mean Time Anvil Press Poetry (poetry)
  • 1994: (editor) Anvil New Poets Volume 2 Penguin (poetry anthology)[30]
  • 1994: Selected Poems Penguin (poems)
  • 1995: Penguin Modern Poets 2 contributor with Vicki Feaver, Eavan Boland, Penguin
  • 1996: Grimm Tales Faber and Faber (play)
  • 1996: Salmon - Carol Ann Duffy: Selected Poems Salmon Poetry
  • 1996: Stopping for Death, Viking (poetry anthology)
  • 1997: More Grimm Tales Faber and Faber (children's play)
  • 1998: The Pamphlet Anvil Press Poetry (poetry)
  • 1999: Meeting Midnight Faber and Faber (children's poetry)
  • 1999: The World's Wife Anvil Press Poetry (poetry)
  • 1999: (editor) Time's Tidings: Greeting the 21st Century, Anvil Press Poetry (poetry anthology)
  • 2000: The Oldest Girl in the World Faber and Faber (children's poetry)
  • 2001: (editor) Hand in Hand: An Anthology of Love Poems Picador (poetry anthology)
  • 2002: Feminine Gospels Picador
  • 2002: Queen Munch and Queen Nibble, Macmillan Children's Books (children's literature, picture book)
  • 2002: Underwater Farmyard, Macmillan Children's Books (children's literature, picture book)
  • 2003: The Good Child's Guide to Rock N Roll, Faber and Faber (children's poetry)
  • 2003: (with Tim Supple) Collected Grimm Tales, Faber and Faber (children's literature, plays)
  • 2004: Doris the Giant (children's literature, picture book)
  • 2004: New Selected Poems Picador
  • 2004: (editor) Out of Fashion: An Anthology of Poems, Faber and Faber (poetry anthology)
  • 2004: Overheard on a Saltmarsh: Poets' Favourite Poems (editor) Macmillan
  • 2005: Another Night Before Christmas (illustrated by Marc Boutavant), John Murray (children's poetry)
  • 2005: Moon Zoo Macmillan (children's literature, picture book)
  • 2005: Rapture Picador (poetry)
  • 2006: The Lost Happy Endings (illustrated by Jane Ray) Penguin (children's literature)
  • 2007: (editor) Answering Back, Picador (poetry anthology)
  • 2007: The Hat Faber and Faber (children's poetry)
  • 2007: The Tear Thief Barefoot Books (children's literature, picture book)


  1. ^ a b Manchester Metropolitan University, Profile: Professor Carol Ann Duffy, accessed November 2, 2009.
  2. ^ Duffy reacts to new Laureate post, BBC News, 1 May 2009.
  3. ^ a b Carol Ann Duffy, Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessed November 2, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e Forbes, Peter. "Winning Lines", The Guardian, 31 August 2002.
  5. ^ Duffy, Carol Ann. Originally, The Other Country, 1990.
  6. ^ Edemariam, Aida. "Carol Ann Duffy: I don't have Ambassadorial Talents", The Guardian, 26 May 2009.
  7. ^ Winterson, Jeanette. "Carol Ann Duff",, accessed 18 December 2009.
  8. ^ Flood, Alison. "Betting closed on next poet laureate amid speculation that Carol Ann Duffy has been chosen", The Guardian, 27 April 2009.
  9. ^ Press Release, South Bank Show, 6 December 2009
  10. ^ Higgins, Charlotte. "Artist Richard Wright strikes gold as winner of this year's Turner prize", The Guardian, 7 December 2009.
  11. ^ Mendelson, Charlotte. The gospel truth, The Observer, 13 October 2002.
  12. ^ Anderson, Hephzibah. Christmas Carol, The Observer, 4 December 2005.
  13. ^ Carol Ann Duffy, The Poetry Society
  14. ^ Premonitions Guardian article 2 May 2009 accessed 2010-03-16
  15. ^ Duffy's poems for children Daily Mirror article, 4 May 2009 accessed 2010-03-16
  16. ^ A previously unpublished poem on the nature of her work Daily Mirror article 2 May 2009. accessed 2010-03-16
  17. ^ Martin, Ben. "Carol Ann Duffy: Profile of the new Poet Laureate", The Daily Telegraph, 1 May 2009.
  18. ^ a b Curtis, Polly. "Top exam board asks schools to destroy book containing knife poem", The Guardian, 4 September 2008.
  19. ^ Duffy, Carol Ann. Mrs Schofield's GCSE, The Guardian, 6 September 2009.
  20. ^ Addley, Esther. "Poet's rhyming riposte leaves Mrs Schofield 'gobsmacked'", The Guardian, 6 September 2008.
  21. ^ Politics by Carol Ann Duffy, The Guardian, 13 June 2009
  22. ^ "Carol Ann Duffy, Poem for the last of WWI", Today Programme, BBC Radio 4, 30 July 2009.
  23. ^ Duffy, Carol Ann. "The Twelve Days of Christmas 2009", Radio Times, 6 December 2009.
  24. ^ Achilles (David Beckham) Guardian article 16th March 2010 accessed 2010-03-16.
  25. ^ Radio play Rapture, performed by Fiona Shaw, with Eliana Tomkins, on BBC Radio Four on 24 July 2007.
  26. ^ Michelis, Angelica, "Carol Ann Duffy (1955-)", article in The Literary Encyclopedia website, retrieved May 4, 2009
  27. ^ O’Reilly, Elizabeth. "Carol Ann Duffy", Contemporary Poets website, retrieved May 4, 2009.
  28. ^ Micelis, Angelica and Rowland, Anthony. The Poetry of Carol Ann Duffy: Choosing Tough Roads.
  29. ^ Griffin, Gabriele. "Duffy, Carol Ann", Who's Who in Lesbian and Gay Writing, Routledge, 2002, ISBN 9780415159845.
  30. ^ Forbes, Peter, "Winning Lines", The Guardian, August 31, 2002.

Further reading

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Andrew Motion
Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom
2009 – present


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Carol Ann Duffy, CBE (born 23 December 1955) is a Scottish poet, playwright, freelance writer and current Poet Laureate, the first woman to hold that title.


  • Somewhere on the other side of this wide night
    and the distance between us, I am thinking of you.
    The room is turning slowly away from the moon.
    • Words, Wide Night, from The Other Country (1990)
  • Not a red rose or a satin heart.
    I give you an onion.
    It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
    It promises light
    like the careful undressing of love...

    I am trying to be truthful.

    • Valentine, from Mean Time (1993)
  • Here.
    It will blind you with tears
    like a lover.
    It will make your reflection
    a wobbling photo of grief.
    • Valentine, from Mean Time (1993)
  • Light gatherer. You fell from a star
    into my lap, the soft lamp at the bedside
    mirrored in you,
    and now you shine like a snowgirl,
    a buttercup under a chin, the wide blue yonder
    you squeal at and fly in.
    • The Light Gatherer, from Feminine Gospels (2002)
  • I cannot say where you are. Unreachable
    by prayer, even if poems are prayers. Unseeable
    in the air, even if souls are stars.
    • Death and the Moon, from Feminine Gospels (2002)
  • As anyone who has the slightest knowledge of my work knows, I have little in common with Larkin, who was tall, taciturn and thin-on-top, and unlike him I laugh, nay, sneer, in the face of death. I will concede one point: we are both lesbian poets.
  • What do I have
    to help me, without spell or prayer,
    endure this hour, endless, heartless, anonymous,
    the death of love?
    • Over, from Rapture (2004)
  • When you have a child, your previous life seems like someone else's. It's like living in a house and suddenly finding a room you didn't know was there, full of treasure and light.
  • There'll be what you might call a moment of inspiration – a way of seeing or feeling or remembering, an instance or a person that's made a large impression. Like the sand and the oyster, it's a creative irritant. In each poem, I'm trying to reveal a truth, so it can't have a fictional beginning
    • Interviewed in The Guardian, December 4, 2005.

Standing Female Nude (1985)

  • Six hours like this for a few francs.
    Belly nipple arse in the window light,
    he drains the colour from me. Further to the right,
    Madame. And do try to be still.
    I shall be represented analytically and hung
    in great museums. The bourgeoisie will coo
    at such an image of a river-whore. They call it Art.
    • Standing Female Nude
  • This is the word tightrope. Now imagine
    a man, inching across it in the space
    between our thoughts. He holds our breath.

    There is no word net.

    You want him to fall, don't you?
    I guessed as much; he teeters but succeeds.
    The word applause is written all over him.

    • Talent
  • One saw I was alive. Loosened
    his belt. My bowels opened in a ragged gape of fear.
    Between the gap of corpses I could see a child.
    The soldiers laughed. Only a matter of days separate
    this from acts of torture now. They shot her in the eye.
    • Shooting Stars

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

Carol Ann Duffy, (born 23 December 1955) is a Scottish poet, playwright and writer. On 1 May 2009 she was appointed Britain's poet laureate. She is the first female British poet laureate, as well as being the first Scottish one. She was awarded an OBE in 1995, and a CBE in 2002.

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