Biography of Carol Ann Duffy

Born in Glasgow in 1955, Carol Ann Duffy was the oldest child and only girl of five siblings in an Irish Catholic family. Duffy began publishing poems at the age of 15 after submitting work to the British literary magazine Outposts. She attended Liverpool University, graduating in 1977 with a degree in philosophy. Following university, she received a C. Day Lewis Fellowship to serve as a writer-in-residence at schools in London's East End during the early 1980s.

In 1983, her poem "Whoever She Was" won the U.K.'s National Poetry Competition. Her first collection, Standing Female Nude, was released two years later. She has published frequently in the years since. Her books include Selling Manhattan (1987), The Other Country (1990), Mean Time (1993), Feminine Gospels (2002), Selected Poems (2004), Rapture (2006), and New and Collected Poetry for Children (2009). Among other prizes and awards, her books have received a Whitbread Poetry award, a Forward Poetry award, a Somerset Maugham award, and a Scottish Arts Council award.

Duffy was appointed Poet Laureate of Britain in 2009, remaining Poet Laureate for the following ten years. She was both the first woman and the first openly gay person to be named Poet Laureate of Britain. Other poets and critics have praised her for her portrayals of love in all its varieties, as well as for her vivid scenes of life in contemporary Britain. The poet Sean O'Brien has said of Duffy, "Poetry, like love, depends on a kind of recognition. So often with Duffy does the reader say, 'Yes, that’s it exactly,' that she could well become the representative poet of the present day." Her work is frequently studied in British schools and she has spoken about the educational value of poetry. In 2011, she initiated a poetry competition for British students, called Anthologise.

Duffy has worked widely across genres and disciplines. She has published plays including Take My Husband (1982) and Little Women, Big Boys (1986), as well as stage adaptations, such as a version of Casanova imagining the titular character as a woman. In addition to writing for children and writing for the stage, she has collaborated with the musician Eliana Tomkins. She served as editor of the literary journal Ambit and was a poetry critic at The Guardian from 1988 to 1989. Duffy also works in the academic world: in 1996 she began working as a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, later becoming the creative director of their writing school.


Study Guides on Works by Carol Ann Duffy

"Anne Hathaway" appears in Carol Ann Duffy’s collection of poems The World’s Wife, published in 1999. This collection moved women in well-known stories and myths to the foregrounds of their stories—spaces previously occupied by men. "Anne...

"Education for Leisure" is a poem by the British writer Carol Ann Duffy, in which a delusional and violent speaker describes his plans to commit a murder. The work was originally published in Duffy's 1985 collection Standing Female Nude. Over the...

"Elvis's Twin Sister" first appeared in Carol Ann Duffy's 1999 poetry collection The World's Wife. The collection explores themes of gender, femininity, and sexism through poems written from the perspective of real and imagined women with...

"Havisham" appears in Carol Ann Duffy's fourth collection of poems, Mean Time, published in 1993. Havisham is written from the perspective of the character Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations. The poems included in Mean...

“In Mrs Tilscher’s Class” is a poem written in the second-person voice, describing a student's nostalgic memory of a beloved teacher. It is the second poem in Carol Ann Duffy’s 1990 collection The Other Country. In the poem, an adult speaker...

"Little Red Cap" is a poem by Scottish poet Carol Ann Duffy, originally published in her 1999 collection The World's Wife. The poem describes a young girl's romance with a menacing wolf, who seduces her by appealing to her love of poetry. Based on...

Carol Ann Duffy is one of Scotland's most acclaimed and widely read poets. She was also named poet laureate of the United Kingdom in 2009. Throughout her long and illustrious career, Duffy wrote countless poems and poetry collections. None,...

"Mrs Midas" is a poem written by Carol Ann Duffy, a Scottish poet and former British Poet Laureate. As its name implies, “Mrs Midas” is a creative, subtle retelling of the Greek myth of Midas’s touch. In the myth, King Midas is granted a wish by...

"Pilate's Wife" was originally published in Carol Ann Duffy's 1999 collection The World's Wife. This book consists of poems written from the perspective of various overlooked women in history and myth. In the case of this poem, Duffy adopts the...

“War Photographer” initially appeared in Carol Ann Duffy’s first published collection of poetry, Standing Female Nude (1985). The poem depicts a photographer developing pictures he has taken in different war zones and reflecting on the pain and...