Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy

Fifty-three year old Carol Ann Duffy has become the first woman to be given the title of Britain’s Poet Laureate; a post filled previously by the likes of William Wordsworth, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Ted Hughes.

The title means that she will be expected to produce poems for royal weddings, funerals and other state occasions, despite her previous comments that “no self-respecting poet” should have to write verses about the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II’s youngest son.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Duffy said: “Sexuality is something that is celebrated now. We have civil partnerships and it’s fantastic that I’m an openly gay writer…”

She will become the first lesbian, Scottish and female holder of the post, which pays £5,750 per year. She intends to give the annual salary to the Poetry Society to fund a prize for the best collection published every year.

Duffy had to think “long and hard” about accepting the offer, she told Radio 4. “The decision was purely because they hadn’t had a woman,” she said. “I look on it as recognition of the great women poets we now have writing, like Alice Oswald.”

She succeeds Andrew Motion, whose eight official poems were not very well-received. His rap-style poem marking Prince William’s 21st Birthday – which opened “Better stand back/Here’s an age attack” – was met with derision.

Duffy is described as a witty and popular writer, whose work is included on the national curriculum for schools and frequently features themes of sexuality, inequality and bereavement.

“Poetry matters to people in this country, poetry is a place we can go to for comfort, celebration, when we’re in love, when we’re bereaved and sometimes for events that happen to us as a nation,” she said.

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