Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Laureate's Job

Earlier in her career, the British poet Carol Ann Duffy expressed disdain for the position of Poet Laureate, saying no self-respecting poet should have to compose poems for such occasions as royal weddings. Then, back in the spring, Duffy herself became Britain's first ever female Poet Laureate.

Now, Carol Ann Duffy seems to have found at least one project suitable for her position. With Britain involved in two Middle Eastern wars -- and beginning to experience a significant number of casualties in Afghanistan -- Duffy commissioned war poetry from a number of her contemporary colleagues. As Duffy says, it is the poets who often give us the most accurate accounting of the genuine experience of war, and, since most famous British poets have not been involved in the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan, she broadened the topic to include not just direct experience of war, but meditations on all the implications of armed conflict.

The result is a powerful group of poems, and they recently appeared in The Guardian.

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