Page last updated at 10:07 GMT, Monday, 30 March 2009 11:07 UK

Poet Laureate: Runners and Riders

Carol Ann Duffy is to be named as Andrew Motion's successor as the new Poet Laureate.

Motion has said that the job of writing verse for the Royal Family is "thankless" and even gave him a case of writer's block.

Bookmakers had made Duffy and Simon Armitage firm favourites.

Here is a rundown of some of the names who were in the frame for the UK's most prestigious - and arguably unenviable - post in poetry.

CAROL ANN DUFFY
Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy, known for her gritty poems about gender issues, contemporary culture, alienation, and social inequality, is one of the UK's most popular living poets, gaining both critical and commercial success.

Duffy's collections include Standing Female Nude (1985), Selling Manhattan (1987), Mean Time (1993), Feminine Gospels (2002), and Rapture (2005).

Mean Time won the Whitbread Poetry Award and the Forward Poetry Prize (Best Poetry Collection of the Year), and she also won the 2005 T. S. Eliot Prize for Rapture, as well as several other awards.

She also writes picture books for children, such as Underwater Farmyard (2002), Doris the Giant (2004), Moon Zoo (2005), and The Tear Thief (2007).

Of her poetry, she once said: "I like to use simple words but in a complicated way". Her work is also part of school curriculum.

She was made a CBE in the 2001 New Year's Honours list.

Duffy was widely tipped to win the Laureateship in 1999 - after the death of Ted Hughes - but the post eventually went to Motion.

If she - or another female poet - is appointed this time, they will be the first woman to fill the post in the position's 400-year history.

SIMON ARMITAGE
Simon Armitage

Poet and novelist Simon Armitage was born in a village near Huddersfield in 1963, and continues to live in West Yorkshire.

His first collection of poems, Zoom!, was published in 1989, followed by Xanadu and Kid, which was short-listed for the 1992 Whitbread Poetry Prize.

Other collections include Book of Matches, CloudCuckooLand, Travelling Songs and Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid.

Armitage has won several poetry awards, including the Sunday Times Young Author of the Year, a Forward Prize and a Lannan Award.

His first novel, Little Green Man, was published in 2001, and his second, The White Stuff, in 2004. Armitage also writes for film, TV and the stage.

In interviews, Armitage has side-stepped the question of whether he would accept the post, but remains one of the bookmakers' favourites.

BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH
Benjamin Zephaniah

In an interview with The Observer earlier this year, Benjamin Zephaniah made his feelings about the Laureateship clear, calling it "outdated" and "irrelevant".

His words echoed those in his 2001 poem, Bought and Sold, in which he wrote: "Don't take my word, go check the verse / Cause every laureate gets worse".

The poet, novelist and playwright was born and raised in Birmingham, spending some of his childhood in Jamaica - a place which has heavily influenced his work.

Zephaniah published his first poetry collection, Pen Rhythm, in 1980, just after moving to London, followed by The Dread Affair: Collected Poems in 1985.

His more recent works include Rasta Time in Palestine (1990), an account of a visit to the Palestinian occupied territories, and two books written for children: Talking Turkeys (1994) and Funky Chickens (1996).

Zephaniah has also written two novels for young people, has honorary degrees from a number of universities, and is a musician.

His work, outspoken views and TV appearances have made Zephaniah - who turned down an OBE in 2003 - one of the most recognisable figures in contemporary literature.

ROGER MCGOUGH
Roger McGough

Roger McGough's trademark humour has made him one of UK's best-loved poets, writing for both adults and children.

He rose to prominence when his work was included in the Penguin anthology, The Mersey Sound, in 1967, with the other so-called "Liverpool Poets", Brian Patten and Adrian Henri.

His poetry collections include Summer with Monika (1967, revised 1990), Everyday Eclipses (2002), The Way Things Are (1999), Defying Gravity (1992), and Melting into the Foreground (1986).

He has won the Signal Award for best children's poetry book twice.

McGough was also a member of the pop group The Scaffold between 1963 and 1973, with whom he reached number one in the singles chart with Lily The Pink

He also presents the BBC Radio 4 programme Poetry Please and continues to perform his own poetry.

McGough published his autobiography Said And Done in 2005.

JACKIE KAY
Jackie Kay

As the child of a black father and white mother but raised by adoptive white parents in Scotland, issues surrounding identity and roots have figured strongly in Jackie Kay's work.

Her formative experiences inspired her first collection of poetry, The Adoption Papers (1991), which centre on an adopted girl's search for a cultural identity.

Her other work includes Other Lovers (1993), which examines slavery and identity. The collection includes a series of poems about the blues-singer Bessie Smith. Off Colour (1998) explores themes of sickness and health.

Kay's first novel, Trumpet, tells the story of Scottish jazz trumpeter, Joss Moody, whose death revealed that he was, in fact, a woman. Published in 1998, it won the Guardian Fiction Prize.

She has also published short story collections, titled Why Don't You Stop Talking (2002) and Wish I Was Here (2006), which won a prize at the Galaxy British Book Awards in 2007. She has also written for the stage and TV.

Kay was awarded an MBE last year for her services to literature.



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