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British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy to give free reading at Emory

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British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy will give a free reading at Emory's Glenn Auditorium at 4 p.m. on Feb. 21. Photo by Michael Woods.

British Poet Laureate and award-winning Scottish poet Carol Ann Duffy will give a free reading at Glenn Auditorium on the Emory University campus at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21.

No tickets are required for this event, but seating is limited in the auditorium. Doors will open at 3 p.m. Books and a limited-edition broadside will be for sale at the reading, and a signing event will be held immediately after the event at Glenn Auditorium.

The reading marks the latest event of the acclaimed Raymond Danowski Poetry Library Reading Series.

“Duffy is a crucial figure in world poetry today, writing with power and grace — and often in beautiful, metered form — about love, death and women’s lives. Her uncanny music and her humor are not to be missed, especially live,” says Kevin Young, curator of literary collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL), who has directed the series since 2005.

Duffy’s reading will close the 2014-15 season of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library Reading Series. Since its debut in 2005, the series has brought a wide range of acclaimed contemporary poets to Emory’s campus, including Lucille Clifton, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Natasha Trethewey, W.S. Merwin, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon and Sharon Olds.

“This reading is especially significant because we are honored to house Duffy’s literary papers here at MARBL,” Young adds. MARBL acquired Duffy’s archives in 1999, with a recent set of additions; the newly processed collection is now open and available for research.

Duffy the poet

Duffy is one of Britain’s best-known and most celebrated poets. Her work addresses essential issues such as oppression, gender and violence as well as everyday life experiences and fantasies.

Nathan Suhr-Sytsma, an assistant professor of English at Emory who has taught Duffy’s poetry in his classes, says those in attendance will find the reading enjoyable.

“Duffy's poetry is unpretentious. She writes powerfully about love and desire, and she can be very funny,” he says. “I think what keeps people coming back to her poetry is not its unusual vocabulary or technical virtuosity so much as its awareness of how ordinary-seeming language can convey very complex emotional and psychological dramas.”

Her books of poetry include “The Bees” (2011); “Rapture” (2005), winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize; “Standing Female Nude” (1985), her first collection, which won the Scottish Arts Council Award; “Mean Time” (1993), winner of the Whitbread Poetry Award and the Forward Poetry Prize; “New & Collected Poetry for Children” (2009); “Feminine Gospels” (2002), and “The World’s Wife” (1999).

Many of Duffy's poems, particularly her early poems, are dramatic monologues, says Suhr-Sytsma – the poem voices a character or characters different from Duffy herself.

“Many of these speakers are women whose stories history has not been interested in recording,” he says. “In the title poem of her first book, ‘Standing Female Nude,’ Duffy gives us the voice of the model who poses for Georges Braque’s painting of that title. In her book ‘The World’s Wife,’ Duffy imagines what ‘Mrs. Lazarus,’ ‘Mrs. Darwin,’ and ‘Queen Kong,’ among others, might say.”

About Duffy

Born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1955, Duffy’s early passion for reading and writing was encouraged by her teachers and mentor poet-artist Adrian Henri. Duffy studied at the University of Liverpool and obtained a degree in philosophy in 1977. Her first job as a television writer was followed by a C. Day Lewis Fellowship to work as a writer-in-residence in London schools from 1982 to 1984.

In addition to poetry, Duffy has edited numerous anthologies and authored several critically acclaimed plays and children’s books. She lives in Manchester and is the creative director of the Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University. In 2009, Duffy was appointed as Britain’s poet laureate, becoming both the first woman and the first openly gay poet to hold the position in its more than 300-year history.

Duffy’s reading is sponsored by the Hightower Family Fund, the Creative Writing Program at Emory, MARBL and the Emory Libraries.

Glenn Auditorium is located at 1652 N. Decatur Rd., Atlanta, GA 30322. Parking is available in the Fishburne and Oxford Road decks. For event-related information, contact Julie Braun at

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