Feature Story, Global

Meeting Britain’s Poet Laureate

November 9, 2016 – by Anna Davies '19

British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy (left) discusses poetry with students in professor Nancy Comorau's Contemporary British Literature class. In preparation for Duffy's visit, students read several of her poems. (Photo by Courtney Dunne '17)

OWU Students Connect with Carol Ann Duffy 

When world-renowned poet Carol Ann Duffy visited Ohio Wesleyan University recently, she did more than merely read to students during her public presentation in Merrick Hall.

Duffy – the first female, Scottish, and openly gay British Poet Laureate – connected with OWU students during the lecture and during one-on-one conversations and multiple classroom visits.

She took time to visit professor Nancy Comorau’s Contemporary British Literature class as well as the Introduction to Literary Studies classes of professors Zack Long and Lynette Carpenter, answering questions on the writing process from students and reading aloud new lines of poems.

Emily Burns ’18 said her class had been reading Duffy’s work in the week leading up to her visit. “Talking to her added a new dimension to the literature we’d been reading in class,” Burns said.

Duffy reading aloud at a public presentation in Merrick Hall. (Photo by Hannah Wargo '19)

Duffy also participated in a roundtable discussion with a small group of students, where she answered questions that ranged from “What is your favorite movie?” (The Godfather) to “How does your identity help you empathize and relate to others struggling around you?”

During the roundtable, Duffy also read a poem she’s been working on called “Blackbird,” a response to the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence.” The poem addresses issues of violence occurring in nature and of finding both beauty and evil in everyday life.

Duffy talked about how when people write, their personal experiences ultimately come through. She’s written a volume of poems that takes a new look at classic children’s fairy tales, challenging the idea of happy endings and moral fables.

Duffy’s writing seems to follow the path of the liberal arts, combining assorted themes and interests into one unified creation bringing attention to world issues. Her poems often focus on violence, oppression, and gender, with her writing bringing attention to injustice. In her public reading, which represented the Department of English’s 2016 Katherine Kearney Carpenter Lecture, she addressed mythical tales of men turning into women, Brexit, and the feelings of grief and sorrow.

Duffy is the author of more than 40 books, including The World’s Wife, The Feminine Gospels, Standing Female Nude and Rapture.