First Woman poet laureate in 350 years in U.K.? Sounds incredible but is true. And she was a reluctant participant.
Carol Ann Duffy, 55, is known to be uncompromising and faithful to her stated positions. She was to have been chosen for the prestigious post in 1999 but for Tony Blair's inexplicable reservation about having a bisexual for the post and the hackles it would inevitably raise. Duffy was, however, quite unconcerned about the rejection and unimpressed too. She said she would not write "a poem for Edward and Sophie. No self-respecting poet should have to."
It has come a decade later but Ann's reaction is typically disarming. She took over in May 2009 and wrote a 14-line sonnet which was a scathing attack on the British MPs expenses scandal. It has been described as a "powerful, passionate commentary on the corrosiveness of politics on politicians and the ruinous effect on idealism."
Ann always seemed to know what her poetry stood for. In a candid self-apprisal she has said "like the sand and the oyster, it's a creative irritant. In each poem, I'm trying to reveal a truth, so it can't have a fictional beginning."
Ann's poems have appeared in four books so far - the last one being Rapture published by Picador which was awarded the T.S.Eliot prize. Her previous collection Feminine Gospels showed a predeliction to long narrative poems but what distinguishes her poetry is its accessibility. She was very forthcoming on it too. "I like to use simple words but in a complicated way."
Most of her peers have grasped her personality as is evident from the way they spoke about her. Singer composer Eliana Tomkins has this to say: "With a lot of artists, the mystique is to baffle their readership. She never does that. Her aim is to communicate." The apprisal of a journalist, Kathrine Viner is equally sharp and truthful. "Her poems are accessible and entertaining, yet her form is classical, her technique razor-sharp. She is read by people who don't really read poetry, yet she maintains the respect of her peers."
Ann's poetry, which has been part of the curriculum in England and Wales since 1994, has travelled from love to Time consciousness to mythology. Her poems are rarely seen online which is a pity and perhaps a constraint on those who would wish to know more about her poetic depth and standing. But her books are always there for anyone with a literary bent of mind.
When this writer read her poem "Mrs. Lazarus" the immediate impact was one of stunned silence. The words had unique power and evocation because the meanings were shadowy. One line which struck me with lightning effect ran thus: "he was vanishing to the small zero held by the gold of my ring."
In our times when poetry is yet to develop a niche in the market poets are left disconsolate in their anonymity. They may be known to one another because of the inexhaustible access that internet provides but it does not have the magic of a printed word. Ann has not only emerged as a saleable poet but also is widely acknowledged among the youth in England and Wales.
She is a must-read for every aspiring poet and will ever remain in the pantheon of British poets.