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Carol Ann Duffy


On December 23, 1955, Carol Ann Duffy was born in Glasgow, Scotland to Mary Black and Frank Duffy, both of Irish Catholic descent. Together with her four younger brothers, she was raised in Staffordshire in the West Midlands of England where her father worked as a fitter with English Electric.

She received a degree in philosophy from Liverpool University in 1977. Her first job was writing for television shows, followed by a C. Day Lewis Fellowship to work as a writer-in-residence in East End schools of London from 1982 and 1984.

Duffy's books of poetry include: New & Collected Poetry for Children (Faber and Faber, 2009); Rapture (Macmillan, 2006); Selected Poems (Penguin, 2004); Feminine Gospels (2002); and The World's Wife (2000), a collection of poetic retellings voiced by the wives of the famous and infamous. Her earlier volumes include: Mean Time (1993), which won the Whitbread Poetry Award and the Forward Poetry Prize; The Other Country (1990); Selling Manhattan (1987), winner of a Somerset Maugham Award; and her first collection, Standing Female Nude (1985), for which she received a Scottish Arts Council Award.

Dramatic characters and narratives, voiced with a sharp edge of wit and social critique, characterize Duffy's early work, while her recent collections have wrestled more directly with dark and tangled themes of love. Writing for The Independent, Ruth Padel called Rapture "a superb demonstration of … Duffy's formidably inventive artistry, her dedication to the craft and tradition of poetry, and above all the love poem."

In addition to poetry, Duffy has edited numerous anthologies, authored several critically-acclaimed plays and children's books, and has collaborated with the singer and composer Eliana Tomkins on a series of jazz performances. Her books for children include The Hat (2007), The Oldest Girl in the World (2000), and Meeting Midnight (1999).

Her awards include a five-year grant from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts in England, a Lannan Literary Award, and the T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize. In 1999, she became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in England and her papers were acquired by the Robert W. Woodruff Library of Emory University.

Duffy was the longtime editor of the poetry magazine Ambit, and has been a frequent reviewer and critic for many publications, including The Guardian. She lives in Manchester and is the Creative Director of the Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University. Duffy was appointed as Britain's Poet Laureate on May 1, 2009, becoming both the first woman and the first openly lesbian poet to hold the position in its more than 300 year history.

By This Poet



She woke up old at last, alone,
bones in a bed, not a tooth
in her head, half dead, shuffled
and limped downstairs
in the rag of her nightdress,
smelling of pee.

            Slurped tea, stared
at her hand--twigs, stained gloves--
wheezed and coughed, pulled on
the coat that hung from a hook
on the door, lay on the sofa,
dozed, snored.

            She was History.
She'd seen them ease him down
from the Cross, his mother gasping
for breath, as though his death
was a difficult birth, the soldiers spitting,
spears in the earth;

            been there
when the fisherman swore he was back
from the dead; seen the basilicas rise
in Jerusalem, Constantinople, Sicily; watched
for a hundred years as the air of Rome
turned into stone;

            witnessed the wars,
the bloody crusades, knew them by date
and by name, Bannockburn, Passchendaele,
Babi Yar, Vietnam. She'd heard the last words
of the martyrs burnt at the stake, the murderers
hung by the neck,

            seen up-close
how the saint whistled and spat in the flames,
how the dictator strutting and stuttering film
blew out his brains, how the children waved 
their little hands from the trains. She woke again,
cold, in the dark,

            in the empty house.
Bricks through the window now, thieves
in the night. When they rang on her bell
there was nobody there; fresh graffiti sprayed
on her door, shit wrapped in a newspaper posted
onto the floor.