|Carol Ann Duffy was first considered for the post in 1999. Duffy said yesterday that she hesitated before accepting the job. She said she left the decision up to her 13-year-old daughter. (Phil Noble/Reuters)|
Britain names woman as poet laureate
LONDON - The centuries-old post of British poet laureate, bard to kings and queens, has been held by William Wordsworth, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Ted Hughes - but never, until yesterday, by a woman.
Carol Ann Duffy said she hesitated before accepting the job, which brings a high public profile and an expectation to rhapsodize about royal weddings, funerals, and major state occasions.
In the end, she left the decision to her 13-year-old daughter, Ella: "She said, 'Yes mummy, there's never been a woman.' "
Duffy, 53, said that as laureate she would write "whatever needs to be written."
She said poetry "is a place we can go to for comfort, celebration, when we're in love, when we're bereaved, and sometimes for events that happen to us as a nation."
A witty and popular writer whose work is widely taught in British schools, Duffy is also the first openly gay poet laureate.
When she was first considered for the post in 1999, some newspapers reported that the government was worried about how a lesbian laureate would be received by the British public. The job went to Andrew Motion.
"I think we've all grown up a lot over the past 10 years," Duffy said.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown called Duffy "a truly brilliant modern poet who has stretched our imaginations by putting the whole range of human experiences into lines that capture the emotions perfectly."
Duffy has published more than 30 books - plays and children's stories as well as poems that mix accessible modern language with traditional forms such as the sonnet. Her work often displays a sly, feminist take on history and contains a strong vein of social commentary.