Monday, May 04, 2009

Salt on the Tongue: Carol Ann Duffy, Britain's New Poet Laureate

Carol Ann Duffy grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Glasgow, Scotland. At 53, she's a poet of power and controversy -- and she is Britain's new Poet Laureate, the first woman to hold the position in its 341 years. She says she wants to be known as a poet and a mother, although many a commentator has been wide-eyed in saying she is also openly a lesbian.

The New York Times announced her appointment on Saturday, saying she is "known for using a deceptively simple style to produce accessible, often mischievous poems and dealing with the darkest turmoil and the lightest minutiae of everyday life." Her web sit is spartan -- -- and quickly refers readers to another site,, which requires a subscription fee of 12 pounds in order to access the poetry and discussion of classroom opportunities. One of Duffy's poems was recently pulled out of British school curriculum because of knife violence in it (see the Guardian story).

I did find a site that offers four of her poems, although you've got to ignore a lot of advertising to open it ( There are four poems on it at present -- the one called "Stuffed" is a shocker, and "Valentine" is a delicious love poem that offers the heart as an onion: "Its scent will cling to your fingers, /cling to your knife."

Stay tuned for more hot discussion of Duffy's poems and her new position. This is going to be far from the "stiff upper lip" notion of British public faces. I'm delighted.

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