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Carol Ann Duffy: a great public poet who deserves her public honour

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As the current laureate is made a Dame, Kate Wilkinson pays tribute to work that has fearlessly engaged with the great questions of our age

Dorothy Wordswoth’s Christmas Birthday by Carol Ann Duffy
Twelve Days of Christmas by Carol Ann Duffy
Snow by Carol Ann Duffy

Of all the honours in this week’s New Year list, the Damehood bestowed on Carol Ann Duffy seems most timely. Not just because of her indefatigable record in responding to public events over the five years of her tenure as poet laureate, but because the Christmas holiday period has been so particularly productive for her.

Every year since 2008 she has published a Christmas poem and each one differs. In Mrs Scrooge (2008) and Wenceslas (2012), both published in the Guardian, she explores a time of material indulgence. The ascetic Mrs Scrooge and the Falstaffian King Wenceslas could not be more different in their celebrations of Christmas.

“Within the Goose,
perfumed with Fruits, was a Duck,
and jammed in the Duck, a
Pheasant,
embalmed in Honey”

“On the first day of Christmas, a buzzard on a branch.
In Afghanistan, no partridge,
pear tree; but my true love sent to me a card from home.”

“Then all the dead opened their cold palms
and released the snow; slow, slant, silent,
a huge unsaying, it fell, torn language”

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