Poetry is precious in these '24-7' times, says Carol Ann Duffy
Poetry can provide an antidote to a “24-7 babble … which is not good for our mental health”, the former poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy told listeners on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour this week.
She added: “I think poetry at its best is using language in the way that perhaps prayer does … it’s a precious and permanent and small part of how we should live.”
Duffy read a poem called ‘Long Table’, written before the pandemic, in which she celebrates midwinter festivities with a group of people together. It includes phrases like “a blaze of merriment” and “we are carousing in rough song”. She explained that she used to go up to the Scottish Highlands around New Year with family and friends But not this year. Although the poem was written before the pandemic, its meaning had changed because of it: “Poetry travels with us, through our lives, and presents different aspects [at different times]”.
She also read her well-known poem ‘Prayer’, and talked about the writing project that she set up at Manchester Writing School in the early months of the pandemic, Write Where We Are Now, which she said now has “upwards of 500 poems by contemporary poets”.
During the programme listeners bombarded the show with their own poems about the pandemic, to the delight and surprise of presenter Emma Barnett.
PHOTOGRAPH: MANCHESTER WRITING SCHOOL