Introducing Carol Ann Duffy to the stage with a trumpet call, indicating a rally of the troops, seems befitting for the hour with the world-renowned poet. Having just finished her ten-year tenure as Poet Laureate, Duffy is eager to share some of her favourite poems, including new work.
Duffy has such acerbic wit, she can't let any moment of humour pass her by
Choosing The World's Wife as her starting point, Duffy allows us to indulge in a selection of feminist-leaning poems - From Mrs Tiresias, Mrs Aesop, Mrs Faust and Mrs Darwin – which has the audience suitably titillated and ready for more.
Duffy has such acerbic wit, she can't let any moment of humour pass her by – even within a pensive hour of poetry. Before reading From Mrs Tiresias, the story of a man who was cursed to live as a woman for seven years, she remarks: "A bit like being Poet Laureate."
Interlacing poetry and music is a clever touch, allowing time to reflect on the words. Instrumentalist John Sampson's selection is unconventional, from a 16th century crumhorn, to a goat's horn, a Chinese hulusi and a cornemuse. The comical dynamic between Duffy and Sampson also cuts through more sombre moments.
Duffy speaks with the voice of a woman who truly knows herself. As she moves on to her new book Sincerity, she explains the etymology of the word, which means "without wax". This was her whole thought process behind the book, to show all of herself, warts and all. She reads Clerk of Hearts, Elephant, Junction 13 and my personal favourite Empty Nest about the grief suffered when children leave home, and includes the incredible line: "Your vacant room/is a still-life framed by the unclosed door."
We laugh with Duffy as she tells us how she can hardly bare to read her political poetry, we empathise with her poem about Royal Mail's decision to remove counties from our addresses, but she sweeps the carpet from under our feet right at the end, leaving us on Premonitions creating a lump in my throat, as she tells the story of her mum's passing in reverse. The hour just wasn't long enough.