Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Friday, 1 May 2009 12:01 UK

First female Poet Laureate named

Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy has been named as the new Poet Laureate, the first woman to be appointed in the 341-year history of the post.

Duffy, 53, who takes over immediately from Andrew Motion and will serve 10 years in the position, says she will give the £5,750 annual payment away.

The author, who is best known for her collection The World's Wife, is also the first Scot to be named Laureate.

Duffy said she felt "very honoured and humbled" by her appointment.

'Truly brilliant'

The poet told BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour she had thought "long and hard" about taking the appointment.

"I look on it as a recognition of the great woman poets we have writing now," she said.

"I've decided to accept it for that reason."

She added: "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.

"In accepting this Laureateship, I hope to contribute to people's understanding of what poetry can do and where it can be found."

She has said she will donate her yearly honorarium for the new post to the Poetry Society to fund a prize for the best collection of the year.

The job also comes with a payment of a "butt of sack" or, in modern terms, about 600 bottles of sherry.

Carol Ann Duffy

Duffy said: "Andrew [Motion] hasn't had his yet so I've asked for mine up front."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "She is a truly brilliant modern poet who has stretched our imaginations by putting the whole range of human experiences into lines that capture the emotions perfectly."

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said Duffy "has achieved something that only the true greats of literature manage".

"That is to be regarded as both popular and profound," he said.

'Difficult poems'

The reigning monarch chooses the Laureate on the advice of the government.

Carol Ann Duffy on her sexuality and rumours she was rejected last time for it

Part of Duffy's responsibilities over the next 10 years will be to write works commemorating royal events, a role her predecessor, Motion, has said he found "very difficult".

After being passed over for the Laureate job in 1999, she commented: "I will not write a poem for Edward and Sophie. No self-respecting poet should have to."

But speaking on Friday, she said: "Poetry is all about looking at the ordinary and transforming it - the Midas touch. And the monarchy has that too.

"The presence of the Queen can help heal, transform and make things magic," she added.

Fellow poet Roger McGough said there was a guarantee with Duffy that, in her commissioned poetry, "we get things which are real and surprising".

Archive interview with Carol Ann Duffy

Reports suggested Duffy was ruled out of the running for the Laureate post in 1999 because it was thought her sexuality might not play well in Middle England.

Asked on Woman's Hour 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."

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.

In 2002 she was made a CBE.

The poet's work is taught in schools at GCSE and AS level.



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