Carol Ann Duffy

(b. 1955)

"Poetry, above all, is a series of intense moments - its power is not in narrative. I'm not dealing with facts, I'm dealing with emotion." Carol Ann Duffy

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These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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  • BBC Poetry Season
    Speaking in 1989, Carol Ann Duffy reveals what inspires her to write and talks about her role as a feminist poet.
  • Poet Laureate to chair judges of twentieth anniverary T.S. Eliot Prize
    Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy has been selected to chair the judges of the twentieth anniversary T.S. Eliot Prize. Follow the link above to the Poetry Book Society's website to find our more.
  • Cheltenham Literature Festival 2012
    Carol Ann Duffy brings poetry to the heart of the festival; as well as performing her own work, she launches the fantastic free Poetry Cafe programme, showcases three talented poets and introduces the unmissable Poetry Jukebox event. She’ll also be presenting the prize for iF Poems/ The Times Young Poet Competition. For more information follow the link to the Cheltenham Festival website.

Select bibliography

  • Standing Female Nude Anvil Press Poetry, 1985
  • The Other Country Anvil Press Poetry, 1990
  • William and the Ex-Prime Minister Anvil Press Poetry, 1990
  • Mean Time Anvil Press Poetry, 1993
  • Selected Poems Penguin Books Ltd, 1994
  • Selling ManhattanAnvil Poetry Press, 1997
  • Meeting Midnight Faber and Faber, 1999
  • The Oldest Girl in the World Faber Children's Books, 2000
  • The World's Wife Picador, 2000
  • Hand in Hand. An Anthology of Love Poems (editor) Picador, 2001
  • Queen Munch and Queen NibbleMacmillan Children's Books, 2002
  • The Good Child's Guide to Rock 'n' Roll Faber Children's Books, 2003
  • Feminine Gospels Picador, 2003
  • The Skipping-Rope Snake Macmillan Children's Books, 2004
  • New Selected Poems 1984-2004 Picador, 2004
  • Intimate Expanses. XXV Scottish Poems 1978-2002(Anthology) Carcanet Press, 2004
  • Out of Fashion. An Anthology of Poems (Editor) Faber and Faber, 2005
  • The Hat Faber and Faber, 2005
  • Rapture Picador, 2005
  • Selected PoemsPenguin Books Ltd, 2006
  • Carol Ann Duffy Reading from her Poems The Poetry Archive, 2009
On May 1st 2009, Carol Ann Duffy became the UK's twentieth Poet Laureate. She is one of Britain's best known and most admired poets. Her poems appeal to those who wouldn't usually read poetry and they appear on the national curriculum. Here, an Observer reviewer celebrates her popularity and her technical adroitness: "Duffy's poems are at once accessible and brilliantly idiosyncratic and subtle". She writes of life in all its sadness - life, as what Eliot calls, that "infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing".

She was born in Glasgow in 1955 to a Scottish father and an Irish mother. Raised Catholic, she grew up in Staffordshire an ardent reader and elder sister to four brothers. Her mother would invent fairy tales for her - a form whose archetypes she has always found seductive. She has been particularly interested in exploring feminine archetypes, which she subverts with dexterity in The World's Wife (Anvil Press Poetry 1999). Duffy wanted from a very early age to be a writer and was encouraged to write poetry by an inspirational teacher at a Convent school when she was ten years old.

Duffy graduated from Liverpool University in 1977 with a BA in Philosophy. She won the National Poetry Competition in 1983, an Eric Gregory Award in 1984 and her first collection Standing Female Nude (1985) was met with acclaim. Robert Nye in The Times declared the book "The debut of a genuine and original poet". In 1993, Mean Times won the Forward Best Collection Prize, a Scottish Arts Council Book Award and the Whitbread Poetry Award. She has gone on to publish many books for adults and children and is also an acclaimed playwright and editor.

A sense of the ritual of language learned in her school days pervades Duffy's work, although she is no longer a practicing Catholic. Indeed, her much anthologized sonnet 'Prayer' speaks of religious feelings and of epiphanies, but also of the absence of formal religious beliefs. "Poetry and prayer are very similar," she explains. "I write quite a lot of sonnets and I think of them almost as prayers: short and memorable, something you can recite."

In 2005, she was awarded the TS Eliot Prize for Rapture, a collection of love poems in variations of that traditional alchemic shape for love poems - the sonnet. The narrative begins with a celebration of 'You' as an "untouchable dream", and charts the joy and the agonies of love all-consuming, ending with 'Over.' You can listen to some of these poems here, and experience the whole of Rapture brought to life movingly by Duffy on a special Poetry Archive CD.

This recording was made on 31st March 2009 at the BBC Studios in Manchester and was produced by Richard Carrington.


1984 Eric Gregory Award

1987 Scottish Arts Council Award Selling Manhattan

1987 Somerset Maugham Award Selling Manhattan

1993 Whitbread Poetry Award Mean Time

1993 Forward Poetry Prize Mean Time

2005 T. S. Eliot Prize Rapture

1992 Cholmondeley Award

1995 Lannan Literary Award for Poetry

1995 OBE

2001 CBE

1997 Signal Poetry Award Stopping for Death

2000 Whitbread Children's Book Award (shortlist) Meeting Midnight

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