Carol Ann Duffy. Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

Carol Ann Duffy. Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

Award-winning Scottish poet and playwright Carol Ann Duffy delivered a poetry reading in a packed Glenn Auditorium last Saturday afternoon, as part of the 10th season of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library Reading Series.

Duffy, who in 2009 was the first openly gay poet to be appointed poet laureate of the United Kingdom, read poems from the comical to the somber that were taken from her books, such as The World’s Wife (1999), Rapture (2005) and The Bees (2011).

Over 500 Emory students, faculty and staff attended the reading, which was sponsored by the Emory Libraries, the Creative Writing Program at Emory, Emory’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) and the Hightower Family Fund.

Kevin Young, the Charles Howard Candler professor of English and Creative Writing and curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, introduced Duffy to the audience.

“Duffy writes about timeless love in a contemporary world,” Young said. “Love changes not just ourselves, but our language.”

For an hour, Duffy read a range of poems from the lighthearted “Mrs Darwin,” to the elegy dedicated to the 96 victims of a stampede at a British football stadium in 1989 entitled “Liverpool.”

Duffy also explored feminist themes by reciting persona poems written from the perspective of the wives of key mythological or historical figures, such as in “Mrs Midas,” “Mrs Tiresias” and “Mrs Faust.” From her book Rapture, which explores a love affair, Duffy read her poem “Tea.”

Books and limited edition broadsides were available for sale at the event, and Duffy signed books after her reading.

According to Young, the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library Reading Series has hosted speakers since 2005, such as Nobel prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney, former United States Poet Laureates Natasha Trethewey and William “Billy” Collins and American poet, essayist and playwright Elizabeth Alexander.

Since 2004, Emory has housed the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, which has a 75,000-volume collection of rare editions of contemporary poetry, and was assembled by collector Raymond Danowski over a period of 25 years, according to the MARBL website.

The collection highlights include a first edition of T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock and Other Observations, a copy of poet Sylvia Plath’s Ariel as annotated by Anne Sexton and collections of the works of W. H. Auden, Gwendolyn Brooks, Charles Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg and William Carlos Williams, among others, according to the website.

Richard Hofmann, an Emory Creative Writing Fellow in Poetry, explained in an email to the Wheel why he finds Duffy’s poems unique.

“Duffy’s poetry stands out, I think, for its dramatic situations,” Hofmann wrote. “Even in her short poems, even in sly and funny poems, Duffy is able to create what feels like a fully realized emotional world.”

College junior Ryan Sutherland said that reading Duffy’s poems was a different experience from hearing them read by Duffy.

“[It was] so much different.” Sutherland said. “It was night and day, it was comedic and casual in a way that writing could not express.”​

— By Emily Lim, Staff Writer

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