Douglas Dunn is awarded Queen's gold medal for poetry

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Douglas Dunn has been awarded the Queen's gold medal for poetry, in recognition of his lifetime contribution to literature. Dunn is best known for Elegies, about his first wife’s death. Committee chair and poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy said he was one of "the greatest poets Scotland has produced", adding that his work could be "both jocular and wise, sensory or bookish, as well as powerfully moving".

Born in Inchinnan, Renfrewshire in 1942, Dunn left school without the qualifications to enter university. He worked as a librarian for several years and, during employment in Ohio, was called up to serve in Vietnam. To avoid the draft, he returned to Britain with his wife Lesley Balfour, where he enrolled at the University of Hull to study English.

He graduated with first class honours in 1969, and published his debut collection of verse, Terry Street, which chronicled a working-class area of Hull, in the same year. He worked in Hull's Brynmor Jones library, where Philip Larkin was university librarian, and Terry Street was published by Faber on Larkin’s recommendation. Long working hours, and Larkin’s refusal to allow him time off for reading engagements, led him to become a full-time writer in 1971, subsisting on reviews, readings and part-time teaching.

Dunn has produced more than 10 collections of poetry, as well as short stories and plays. He has also edited several anthologies, including The Faber Book of Twentieth-Century Scottish Poetry. He is honorary professor of English at St Andrew's University. 

Elegies was named Whitbread Book of the Year award in 1985, and he was awarded an OBE in 2003.

"Douglas Dunn's sparkling, erudite and distinguished body of work has long been one of the grace notes of British poetry," said Duffy. "His Elegies are among the most touching and honouring pieces of recent decades, giving us poems that will live for generations."

You can hear Douglas Dunn reading some of his poems here 



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