On Wednesday 18th June 2011, I had the privilege of being able to see and hear Carol Ann Duffy read her poetry at the Brighton Corn Exchange, as part of the Brighton Festival. I've long been a fan of her work, but this was the first time I'd had the opportunity to see her live. And she was brilliant, grabbing the audience's attention right from the start, coming across as approachable, down-to-Earth and an extremely talented poet. Being the current British Poet Laureate, I had to wonder how much of Carol Ann's new poetry, and the poetry she would choose to share, would be linked to subjects affecting the country. To my surprise, she hardly mentioned her position as Laureate and instead introduced a range of poems, some old and some new, that appeared purely her own.
She began with a selection from her 1999 collection 'The World's Wife', which I personally adore. It's a response to the men of history and myth, such as Midus, Faust and Charles Darwin, but looking at them through the eyes of their wives. These were fun, moving and clever.
Carol Ann then shared some poems from 'Rapture', her 2005-published series of poems exploring the journey of a relationship. These were also moving, both sad and happy. By now she had the audience fully with her, providing brief introductions to most poems but letting a couple speak for themselves.
Next, it was onto some new work. Here we did find some reference to her work as Poet Laureate, but it was refreshing to find that they were still very much in her own voice, and weren't necessarily in support of the current government and its decisions. She read one poem on the fact that one of her poems had been removed from the GCSE examination board, and another on the Royal Mail's plans to remove the use of UK counties on letters. She also shared some poems about her mother and her daughter.
It was a varied mixture of poetry, in style and topic, but all appeared very much Carol Ann, and all were enjoyed by the fully-packed, sold-out audience in Brighton's Corn Exchange. For me, it was great to hear her new work, be reminded of older work that I already enjoyed, and brought home how she has become a strong role-model for poetry in general and for creative women specifically, as the first female British Poet Laureate. She informed us that she would have a new collection published in September 2011 and I, for one, can't wait to read it.