Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

HE Believes Poetry Is Our I Don't Have the Burden of Being a Famous Face, the Attention Should Be on the Poets and Their Poetry

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

HE Believes Poetry Is Our I Don't Have the Burden of Being a Famous Face, the Attention Should Be on the Poets and Their Poetry

Article excerpt

SHE believes poetry is our national art form - and now Dame Carol Ann Duffy is travelling the length of Britain with a group of fellow bards, on a mission to bring contemporary poetry to the masses - and celebrate Independent Bookshop Week (June 18-25).

She's keen we stick to topic: the tour, poetry, and the great value of independent bookshops.

Veer towards anything more personal, or any of the recent stories about her, and she politely but firmly declines to answer. You need to tread carefully with Dame Carol Ann.

She is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University and the most studied poet in Britain after Shakespeare and has been Poet Laureate since 2009 - the first woman to do the job.

While the accolade raised her professional profile, she's not recognised when out and about, unless she's at a poetry reading - and she's thankful for that.

"What one hopes people recognise are the poems, and not the person behind them," says the 60-year-old.

"I don't have that burden of being a famous face. As long as the attention is on poets and poetry, that's absolutely fine.

"It was very good when I became Poet Laureate, in that there had never been a woman in nearly 400 years," she continues. "I was just lucky at the time when I became a young adult, that women's voices and women's poetry were coming into the foreground."

The subjects of her poetry have been wide ranging, taking in MPs' expenses, David Beckham, love and sex, the Afghan war, HIV and AIDS, climate change and healthcare.

Emotions and real life are at the centre of her work.

"Poetry is the music of being human," she explains. "When people get married or have a bereavement or when a baby is born, they turn to poetry in those intense moments of being human.

Queen Elizabeth Professor Carol incoming Poet "My own poetry is a way of celebrating and explaining the world to myself through language. You can never tell where a poem might come from, but one doesn't have to look for it. All poets, even if they are writing an elegy, are in a sense celebrating.

"A poem adds something to the world, it doesn't take anything away."

She is about to embark on a 'Shore To Shore' tour with three other poets, starting in Cornwall and ending in Scotland, to celebrate Independent Bookshop Week, with an accompanying exclusive volume of poetry - Off The Shelf: A Celebration Of Bookshops In Verse - which Dame Carol Ann has edited.

After that, she'll be running Manchester Children's Book Festival (June 24-July 3), poetry-reading at the Edinburgh Festival in August - plus she's busy with a new anthology (due to be published in November), as well as her continued post as professor and creative director of the MMU writing school.

II receives Ann Duffy as the Laureate in 2009 She recalls how her father (Dame Carol Ann was born in the Gorbals, Glasgow, the eldest of five children to Roman Catholic socialist parents; the family moved to Stafford when she was four) initially had reservations when she first announced her hopes of writing poetry for a living. …

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