Carol Ann Duffy leads reading of poems about loss of insects in last act as poet laureate
The retiring poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, who steps down after her 10 year-tenure at the end of this month, led a special reading of poems about insects in her last act as laureate.
Following recent reports about the alarming rate of decline in the global insect population, Duffy gave a special reading of insect poems at Stratford Circus Arts Centre, east London, on Monday 29 April. Reading with her were Imtiaz Dharker, Daljit Nagra, Sean Borodale, Zaffar Kunial, Matthew Hollis, Ella Duffy, Andrew McMillan, Mark Pajak and Yvonne Reddick. In 2011 her collection The Bees won the Costa poetry award.
She was appointed laureate in 2009, and was the first female, first Scot and first openly gay or bisexual poet to hold the position. During her ten-year term Duffy has poems to mark the deaths of Henry Allingham and Harry Patch (the last two British soldiers to fight in the first world war), the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Queen’s diamond jubilee, and even a lament for David Beckham’s injured achilles tendon in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup.
At her first audience with the Queen to mark her appointment as poet laureate in 2009, she revealed that the annual honorarium the poet laureate traditionally receives would be donated to fund the Ted Hughes award for new work in poetry. The prize is awarded to a UK poet, working in any form, who has made the most exciting contribution to poetry in that year.
Her successor as laureate is expected to be announced in May. Frontrunners are said to include Lemn Sissay, Imtiaz Dharker, Jackie Kay, Simon Armitage, Daljit Nagra and Vahni Capildeo.
Another possible candidate, Benjamamin Zephaniah, ruled himself out last year, saying on Twitter: “I have absolutely no interest in this job. I won’t work for them. They oppress me, they upset me, and they are not worthy. I write to connect with people and have never felt the need to go via the church, the state, or the monarchy to reach my people. No money. Freedom or death.”
Last year Jeremy Wright, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, announced that an advisory panel had been appointed to advise on a laureate recommendation. Representatives from the British Council, Arts Council England and Arts Council Northern Ireland, Royal Society of Literature, Scottish Poetry Library, Literature Wales, The Poetry Society, Forward Arts Foundation, British Library and Poetry Book Society were included in the panel.
At the time Wright said: “Poetry has the power to connect us to people, places and ideas. It also cuts across social and cultural divides. The important role of Poet Laureate helps to record key moments in British history and celebrates our rich literary tradition.
“I pay tribute to Dame Carol Ann Duffy for her dedicated service in championing poetry to the nation. I look forward to working with a new advisory panel, that reflects the whole of the UK and the new ways we consume poetry, in electing her successor.”
The final recommendation for poet laureate is put forward to the Queen by the prime minister, Theresa May.