Carol Ann Duffy – first female Poet Laureate since 1668!

Just a quick one – I felt it couldn’t go unheralded, although it probably merits more time than I can manage now.

This is great news! Carol Ann Duffy was appointed today as the Poet Laureate, taking over from Andrew Motion who’s held the post for the past 10 years.  Poets used to remain “laureate” for life, but now it’s just 10 years (sounds a bit like sentencing – sorry out of place!).   Note: the Poet Laureate is the poet to the reigning monarch and therefore British, while Scotland has its own Makars.

For some extraordinary reason (I wonder why?!) we’ve had the vote, Women’s Lib, etc. but for the past 341 years (the position was created in 1668 – although some include Ben Johnson who was named Poet Laureate in 1616) there has never been a female Poet Laureate.  So this appointment is cause for celebration.   In Scotland, it’s a double whammy as (and I could hardly believe this…) there has never been a Scottish Poet Laureate…!!  This was because the only other Scot asked to take the laureateship was Walter Scott and he turned it down in 1813.

In an interview with Jeanette Winterson (quoted in an article by Alison Flood in today’s Guardian), Duffy commented that

on the poetry circuit in the 70s, she was called a “poetess”. “Older male poets, the Larkin generation, were both incredibly patronising and incredibly randy. If they weren’t patting you on the head, they were patting you on the bum,” she said. She stressed to Winterson that she was “not a lesbian poet, whatever that is”. “If I am a lesbian icon and a role model, that’s great, but if it is a word that is used to reduce me, then you have to ask why someone would want to reduce me? I never think about it. I don’t care about it. I define myself as a poet and as a mother – that’s all.”

So, here’s to Carol Ann who follows in the hallowed steps of William Wordsworth, John Dryden, and John Betjeman, to name just a few, and becomes the 20th Poet Laureate.  Slainte! (maybe with a glass or two from the butt of canary wine that comes with the job — nowadays a barrel of sherry – provided it’s delivered on time!)

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