Carol Ann Duffy hails poetry's 'wonderful evening' at palace
England’s poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has described the royal reception for poets at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday night, as a “wonderful evening”. Duffy, who helped plan the evening with palace officials, said: "I could tell that the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh loved it. They were really engaged and laughing and listening very intently. I think the secret was to really fine tune it and showcase some brilliant poets."
According to a Press Association report, four poet laureates were among the 300 guests. Actors and singers, poetry and English literature teachers, plus other academics and war poets were also among those representing the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.
The Palace later tweeted a photograph of Carol Ann Duffy introducing a line of poets to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, rather like a team captain at Wembley.
Ian McMillan said on Twitter after it was all over: “Lovely evening … I spoke to Pam Ayres and Geoffrey Hill. Result!”
Belfast laureate Sinead Morrissey, Welsh national poet Gillian Clarke, Scotland's Liz Lochhead, and John Agard, who recently won the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, performed readings.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were said to have been as amused as the rest of the audience as Agard recited ‘Alternative Anthem’, his tribute to the British love of tea. "Put the kettle on. It is the British answer to Armageddon," he said.
Also present were Dylan Thomas's granddaughter Hannah Ellis, and poets and broadcasters Roger McGough and Ian McMillan. Henry Birtles, dubbed the "racing poet" for his horseracing poems, and 92-year-old Dennis Wilson, who took part in the D-Day landings, were also presented to the Queen. The Duke joked with Mr Wilson, saying: "I hear that you have been discovered." Mr Wilson, from Southampton, said: "Yes it has only taken me 70 years to find a publisher."
Another poet who was there, the canal laureate, Jo Bell, wrote on her blog: “Here’s a surprise: it was a real celebration of British poetry. The guest list was arbitrary, but clearly put together by people who know our world. Of course plenty of fine poets, small press publishers, festival organisers and activists were missing. Even that big old room wouldn’t take every fine poet in the UK, every valiant small press publisher, everyone who runs a festival, every activist. We could all name people who should be there and weren’t, but you’d be hard pushed to name anyone who was there and shouldn’t be. It was a fair sample of our poetry nation.”
She concluded: “I went into the palace proud, and I came out proud. It was the same sense of deep peace and bright laughter that I’d have at Bang Said the Gun or Bad Language in Manchester. Proud, then – not because of any passing recognition from That Family, but to be part of this family. This tribe, this gathered clan, this group of people who stand up for love, who tell it like they see it, who continue in spite of indifference or opposition to tell their truth. My kith. Thank you for having me.”