Women In Sensible Shoes Lead the Poetry World

Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy

It appears that women in sensible shoes are providing the rhyme and meter of the western world.

Carol Ann Duffy, an out lesbian, is now Britain’s poet laureate, the first woman ever to hold the prestigious literary post in its nearly 400-year history.

In a poetic coincidence, Kay Ryan, the current Poet Laureate of the United States is also a lesbian.

Kay Ryan

Kay Ryan

According to the BBC, Duffy was considered for the post in 1999 and allegedly ruled out because Tony Blair thought her sexuality might not play well in Middle England. The honorary post is award every 10 years.

Asked during an interview if she was apprehensive about intrusion into her personal life, she said: “I am a very private person and will continue to protect my privacy and my daughter.”

“When giving public readings I will be, as I always have been, accessible.”

Duffy’s Wikipedia entry quotes her as having said:

“I’m not a lesbian poet, whatever that is. If I am a lesbian icon and a role model, that’s great, but if it is a word that is used to reduce me, then you have to ask why someone would want to reduce me? I never think about it. I don’t care about it. I define myself as a poet and as a mother – that’s all.”

Her first themed collection, The World’s Wife, spoke of great men, myths and moments in history through the women in the background. It included poems called Mrs Midas and Queen Kong.

Duffy, an acclaimed poet and playwright, is creative director at the Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University. She has written numerous award-winning poetry collections, plays, and fairy tales and poetry for children.

Her breakthrough came in 1983 when she won Britain’s National Poetry Competition with a poem called “Whoever She Was.” (You can read the poem here.)

Previous poet laureates have been among the greatest poets in the English language. The first to hold the post was Ben Jonson in 1619; others have included John Dryden, William Wordsworth, Alfred Tennyson, John Betjeman, and Ted Hughes.

Duffy said she was happy to take the job so she can highlight the role poetry plays in everyday life.

“Poetry is all around us, all of the time, whether in song or in speech or on the page, and we turn to it when events, personal or public, matter most,” she said in a statement. “I hope to contribute to people’s understanding of what poetry can do, and where it can be found.”

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2 responses to “Women In Sensible Shoes Lead the Poetry World

  1. Thanks for this – It’s a relief to see women positively highlighted in the blogmedia that don’t fit the prescribed Hollywood stereotypes. Besides that, I am enjoying their ‘stuff’. (your’s too)

  2. Yeah, great to see this post! It’s nice that Britain is following suit (uh, no butch pun intended). As a community college English teacher, I and my gay-friendly colleagues were thrilled at Ryan’s selection last year – she teaches right here (for us Bay Areans) at the College of Marin. Now, if only Obama had picked her to read the inaugural poem….that sure would’ve helped offset the slime of Rick Warren!

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