Carol Ann Duffy is the new Poet Laureate

Carol Ann Duffy, the new Poet Laureate

Carol Ann Duffy has been named as the new Poet Laureate, the first woman ever to be appointed to the role.

The post of Poet Laureate is awarded for a ten-year term and attracts an annual honorarium of  £5750. Duffy has announced her intention of gifting this sum to the Poetry Society in order to put the money back into poetry.

Carol Ann Duffy was born on 23 December 1955 in Glasgow and read philosophy at Liverpool University.  She is currently Creative Director at the Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University.  

In 1983, at a pivotal stage in her writing career, Carol Ann Duffy triumphed in the Poetry Society's National Poetry Competition.


Deryn Rees-Jones, Poet, Senior Lecturer in English, University of Liverpool, author of "Carol Ann Duffy" (writers & their work, published Northcote House)

"Carol Ann Duffy's poetry marked a genuine turning point in writing by women in the postwar period, and paved the way for a whole new generation of writers in the 1980s. It often uses the language of everyday speech in the service of plain speaking. But -- and this is perhaps its greatest strength -- it has nevertheless always been work unafraid of asking big philosophical questions about language and identity, gender and sexuality, the complexities of modern urban life. It can be humorous, challenging, sexy, and, in the very best way, disrespectful of rules about what might be appropriate subject matter in poetry."

Fiona Sampson, Poet, and Editor of Poetry Review

"Carol Ann Duffy is already a figure of tremendous importance in British poetry, modernising both its tone and register.  All her work has an earthy intelligence, sometimes revealed as wit, sometimes as emotional and cultural insight – and almost always in the shift-lock of her subject matter.  Her poetry reminds us that the lives of women, too, are full of emotion, significance and fun."

Jo Shapcott, Poet, and President of the Poetry Society

"Carol Ann Duffy's appointment as Poet Laureate is great news for poetry. She is the first woman Laureate which by itself is a matter of rejoicing but, just as important, is her individual and remarkable gift as a poet. She will bring twin strengths of talent and generosity to the post and make things fizz."


Carol Ann Duffy  is a Poetry Society Vice President. She has been one of the Poetry Society’s poets in schools. In 2004 she took part in GCSE Poetry Live at the Poetry Society with Simon Armitage. Carol Ann Duffy was a relatively unknown poet back in 1983 when she won The National Poetry Competition with her poem ‘Whoever She Was’. The Judges were Vernon Scannell, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Gillian Clarke.

Judith Palmer, Director of The Poetry Society

It was great news to hear Carol Ann Duffy confirmed as Poet Laureate. 

She writes in so many different registers, from the sardonic to the sexy, that almost everyone can find a Duffy poem that speaks personally to them. Carol Ann was just starting out in her career when she won the Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition in 1983, in an era when women poets were still being described rather condescendingly as ‘poetesses’. Her work really broke new ground, and helped open up possibilities for generations of women writers following on. Her appointment is a triumph on so many levels, and it will be exciting to see how she decides to develop the role.

Andrew Motion transformed the post of Laureate; and it is largely due to his hard work, that the laureateship now feels a role with such rich potential. The Poetry Society is looking forward to working with Carol Ann Duffy – one of our Vice Presidents – throughout her ten year term. The announcement of her intention to give the Society her laureate’s honorarium, is typical of her great generosity of spirit.

The appointment of the new Poet Laureate was made after a consultation process by The Department of Culture, Media and Sport at the end of last year. The DCMS indicated that the opinions of Poetry Society members were very valuable in their decision-making process. Poetry Society members suggested 56 different poets for the post, but Carol Ann Duffy emerged as the clear favourite among members."


Carol Ann Duffy's adult poetry collections are Standing Female Nude (1985), winner of a Scottish Arts Council Award; Selling Manhattan (1987), which won a Somerset Maugham Award; The Other Country (1990); Mean Time (1993), which won the Whitbread Poetry Award and the Forward Poetry Prize (Best Poetry Collection of the Year); The World's Wife (1999); Feminine Gospels (2002); and Rapture (2005), winner of the 2005 T. S. Eliot Prize.

The Hat (2007) is her latest poetry collection for children. Previous children's collections include Meeting Midnight (1999), The Good Child's Guide to Rock N Roll (2003), and the picture books Underwater Farmyard (2002); Doris the Giant (2004); Moon Zoo (2005); and The Tear Thief (2007).

Anthologies edited by Carol Ann Duffy include Out of Fashion (2004), and more recently, Answering Back (2007).Carol Ann Duffy is also an acclaimed 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) and Loss (1986), a radio play. She received an Eric Gregory Award in 1984 and a Cholmondeley Award in 1992 from the Society of Authors, the Dylan Thomas Award from the Poetry Society in 1989 and a Lannan Literary Award from the Lannan Foundation (USA) in 1995. She was awarded an OBE in 1995, a CBE in 2001 and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1999.Carol Ann Duffy lives in Manchester.


Whoever She Was

They see me always as a flickering figure
on a shilling screen. Not real. My hands,
still wet. sprout wooden pegs. I smell the apples
burning as I hang the washing out.
Mummy, say the little voices of the ghosts
of children on the  telephone. Mummy

A row of paper dollies, clean wounds
or boiling eggs for soldiers. The chant
of magic Words repeatedly. I do not know.
Perhaps tomorrow. If we’re very good.
The film is on a  loop. Six silly ladies
torn in half by baby fists. When they
think of me, I’m bending over them at night
to kiss. Perfume. Rustle of silk. Sleep tight. 

Where does it hurt? A scrap of echo clings
to the bramble bush. My maiden name
sounds wrong. This was the playroom.
There are the photographs. making masks
from turnips in the candlelight. In case they come.

Whoever she was, forever their wide eyes watch her
as she shapes a church and steeple in the air.
She cannot be myself and yet I have a box
of dusty presents to confirm that she was here.
You remember the little things. telling stories
or pretending to be strong. Mummy’s never wrong.
You open your dead eyes to look in the mirror
which they are holding to your mouth.

Carol Ann’s quote on winning the National Poetry Competition.

“Winning the National Poetry Competition was the loveliest, most unexpected thing at the time, and was followed by the BEST party at dear old Earls Court - (Bernard Stone, Judith Radstone, Gavin Ewart, Elizabeth Bartlett, Stephen Spender, Elizabeth Smart, Dannie Abse, and still-greatest living poet Kit Wright propping up the bar...)- where I was delighted to insult various Thatcherite MPs face to face. As I vaguely recall, I lost the cheque on the tube on the way home and had to have it re-issued. by Pamela Clunies-Ross - (or Loonies-Cross, as she was affectionately known.) In those days, one was still called a "poetess"- so it meant a lot, as a young woman poet, to begin to try to change that. And, oh girls, just look at us now...”