Duffy named Britain's first female poet laureate

Fri May 1, 2009 9:23am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Carol Ann Duffy was named Britain's Poet Laureate Friday, the first woman to hold the royal post in its 341-year history.

The 53-year-old, born in Glasgow, Scotland, said she had thought "long and hard" about accepting the position, seen by some as a poisoned chalice due to the public scrutiny that comes with it.

"I look on it as a recognition of the great women poets we have writing now," Duffy told BBC Radio. "I've decided to accept it for that reason."

Poets Laureate are expected to compose poems to mark major state occasions and other national events.

The post has been held by John Dryden, William Wordsworth and Ted Hughes. It used to be for life but Duffy, like her predecessor Andrew Motion, will hold it for 10 years.

Duffy had been in the running for the role in 1999, but lost out to Motion because of what British media reports said were concerns about how people would react to a lesbian laureate.

Duffy is probably best known for her 1999 collection "The World's Wife" in which she tells the stories of the women behind some of the leading men through history.

Other highlights among her collections, many of which have won major awards, are "Standing Female Nude" (1985), "Mean Time" (1993), "Feminine Gospels" (2002) and "Rapture" (2005).   Continued...

<p>Britain's new poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy poses for photographers following a news conference at the John Rylands library in Manchester in Manchester, northern England, May 1, 2009. REUTERS/Phil Noble</p>