THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER OPERATIONAL. PLEASE ENJOY WHAT IS HERE, AND DO LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WISH. NORTH CAROLINA'S NEW POET LAUREATE IS CATHY SMITH BOWERS. SHE WILL SOON HAVE HER OWN WEBSITE THROUGH THE NORTH CAROLINA ARTS COUNCIL SITE. I WILL BE SHIFTING MY ATTENTION TO HERE, WHERE I AM, (SEE SIDEBAR)USING IT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO WRITERS WHOSE WORK DESERVES ATTENTION. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT ME THERE. For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xAk6fOzaNE.
Go to http://www.yourdailypoem.com/, managed with finesse by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, who says, "Our intent is to make visitors to Your Daily Poem aware of the joy and diversity of poetry."
Saturday, May 2, 2009
BRITAIN'S FIRST FEMALE POET LAUREATE
('I look on it as recognition of the great women poets we now have writing' ... Carol Ann Duffy. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe)
Yesterday as my husband and I wanderead the aisles of Ingles Supermarket, we happened upon a British transplant, a friend who taught at Western Carolina University while we did. "Ah, I hear the British have named their first woman poet laureate," he announced. "Oh, I heard that too on CNN," my husband answered while I rummaged amongst the cheeses. "Who?" I asked. " I can't remember; I never heard of her," Henry, our friend, replied, "but I'm sure you have."
My parting shot to our retreating friend: "Well, I'm glad to hear the Brits are catching up!"
He grinned. As for having heard of this mystery laureate, yes, indeed I have. Now that I know who she is. Carol Ann Duffy.
I know because years ago Eavan Boland recommended her work to me, while she was here at WCU for the writers series I then directed. I know because above my laptop, thumbtacked to my wall, is her "Poem," in broadside format from Vehicule Press in Montreal, which I found on the web and printed. A beautiful poem it is, too, for her only child, a daughter.
When you were small, your cupped palms each held a candlesworth under the skin, enough light to begin...
And its concluding lines, some of the most evocative in contemporary English poetry about the emotion a mother feels for her daughter:
Light Gatherer. You fell from a star into my lap, the soft lamp at the bedside mirrored in you,
and now you shine like a snowgirl, a buttercup under a chin, the wide blue yonder you squeal at and fly in,
like a jeweled cave, turquoise and diamond and gold, opening at the end of a tunnel of years.
I found the following article in THE GUARDIAN. After reading it, I like this woman already. What she says about giving back to the art of poetry resonates strongly with me. And the 600 bottles of sherry traditionally given to the Laureate? She's not going to let that go undelivered. She wants it "up front." Way to go, First Female Poet Laureate of the British Empire! Note also, her comments about reading in the 70's with Britain's male poets. Sound familar? Ah yes....
So, congratulations to Ms. Duffy and to the British for choosing a worthy poet for their Laureate. And a woman, too. Imagine that!
Carol Ann Duffy becomes first female poet laureate
Duffy takes poetry's most prestigious job, succeeding Andrew Motion, as a standard-bearer for women poets Alison Flood guardian.co.uk, Friday 1 May 2009 10.02 BST
Four hundred years of male domination came to an end today with the election of Carol Ann Duffy as poet laureate. Duffy, the widely-tipped favourite for the post, only agreed to accept the post ahead of poets Simon Armitage and Roger McGough because "they hadn't had a woman".
Speaking on Woman's Hour this morning on Radio 4, she revealed that she had thought "long and hard" about accepting the offer.
"The decision was purely because they hadn't had a woman," she said. "I look on it as recognition of the great women poets we now have writing, like Alice Oswald."
Duffy said she was ready to deal with the scrutiny which comes as part and parcel of the laureateship, suggesting that her experience of public appearances would stand her in good stead, but that she would vigorously defend her private life. "I'm a very private person and I will continue to fiercely protect my privacy and my daughter," she said.
She declared herself ready to tackle the official verse which the laureateship requires, but only if the occasion inspired her. "If not, then I'd ignore it," she said.
She plans to donate her yearly stipend of £5,750 to the Poetry Society to fund a new poetry prize for the best annual collection. "I didn't want to take on what basically is an honour on behalf of other poets and complicate it with money," she explained. "I thought it was better to give it back to poetry."
She has, however, asked that her "butt of sack" – the 600 bottles of sherry traditionally given to the laureate – should be delivered up front, after learning that Motion is yet to receive his allocation.
News of her appointment began to leak earlier this week, when bookmakers stopped taking bets following a rush of money backing Duffy. This year marked the first occasion on which the public was invited to make suggestions for the laureateship to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – a move which is likely to have helped the bestselling Duffy to clinch the role. The DCMS also consulted with the poetry establishment to come up with a shortlist for the laureate, and passed this on to Number 10, with the Queen approving the final choice of Duffy.
Gordon Brown, the prime minister, congratulated her as both the first poet laureate of the 21st century and "as the first woman to hold the post". Calling her a "truly brilliant modern poet" he paid tribute to her ability to put "the whole range of human experiences into lines that capture the emotions perfectly" and wished her well for her ten-year term.
She takes over from current incumbent Andrew Motion, who wished her luck in an email exchange earlier this morning. Motion has completed a decade in the post, writing poems for events including the Queen's 80th birthday in 2006, the 100th birthday and death of the Queen Mother, and a rap for Prince William's 21st.
Duffy, 53, narrowly missed out on the laureateship to Motion in 1999 after the death of Ted Hughes, who had held the post since 1984. Despite being widely held as favourite at the time, she was reluctant to take up the prominent role given her status as a mother in a lesbian relationship (with the Scottish poet Jackie Kay; the relationship has since ended).
At the time, Duffy told the Guardian that she "didn't want to do the thing", but when "all these stories started appearing, I got scores of letters from women saying do it, do it, do it. But I was never really sure. I never really came out and said whether I wanted it or not." Quoted as saying that the role needed to be "much more democratic", more people's poet than monarch's bard, and that she would "not write a poem for Edward and Sophie - no self-respecting poet should have to", she'd actually backed the late UA Fanthorpe – whose death aged 79 was announced yesterday – for the post.
As one of the bestselling poets in the UK, Duffy has managed to combine critical acclaim with popularity: a rare feat in the poetry world. Her 1999 collection The World's Wife, which saw every poem told in the voice of a wife of a great historical figure, from Mrs Aesop to Queen Herod, was the first to gain her mass appeal. She went on to add a CBE in 2002 to her 1995 OBE, and won the TS Eliot prize in 2005 for her collection of linked love poems, Rapture. She has also won the Dylan Thomas award, the Whitbread poetry prize, the Somerset Maugham award and the Forward prize, and features regularly on school and university syllabuses. Furthermore, she is no stranger to the writing to deadline that the laureateship requires; last September saw her penning a swift poetic response to the news that one of her collections had been removed from the GCSE syllabus for supposedly glorifying knife crime.
In an interview with Jeanette Winterson, Duffy said that when she started on the poetry circuit in the 70s, she was called a "poetess". "Older male poets, the Larkin generation, were both incredibly patronising and incredibly randy. If they weren't patting you on the head, they were patting you on the bum," she said. She stressed to Winterson that she was "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."
As well as her seven collections for adults, marked by their accessibility, lightness of touch and emotional depth, Duffy also writes poetry and picture books for children, edits anthologies, and has written a number of well-received plays. She lives in Manchester, where she is creative director of the writing school at Manchester Metropolitan University.
The origins of the laureateship are somewhat hazy, but Ben Jonson is believed by many to have been the first to hold the position; the role (along with a pension of 100 marks a year) was conferred on him by James I. Previous laureates include Wordsworth, Tennyson, Cecil Day-Lewis and John Betjeman.
The first woman to be considered for the laureateship was Elizabeth Barrett Browning in 1850, when William Wordsworth died, but Tennyson was chosen in her stead. Forty-two years later, Christina Rossetti was overlooked on Tennyson's death, when rather than appoint a woman the position was left vacant until Alfred Austin – viewed today as one of the worst ever laureates – was appointed.
Motion, who is the first laureate to resign the office, has advised his successor to take "steps to preserve [their] privacy", saying last year that "no matter how well known you are as a writer, it's almost impossible to imagine what it is like being jerked out of one semi-private life into a more-or-less public life".
He has also warned about the havoc the laureateship can wreak on one's own writing. "I dried up completely about five years ago and can't write anything except to commission," he said last September.
Last week he read out his final piece of public verse, a series of limericks about the budget he composed while in the bath which concluded: "The duty of writing / Lines sharp and exciting / On this – it ain't mine, but my heir's as PL."
I've lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina since 1968, though I'm a native of SW Georgia. My paternal grandmother was born in the Blue Ridge, and I grew up wanting to live here. Where I am.
I've published five collections of poetry, the most recent 4 being with LSU Press, and have published poetry in magazines ranging from The Atlantic Monthly to Appalachian Heritage. But I also hike, bang pots and pans around in my kitchen, and love several dogs who leave fur all over my carpets. I write poetry because it's my way of singing back to the world both within and without.