No way was I going to miss Carol Ann Duffy reading from her new books ‘The Bees’ and the ‘Night before Christmas’ at South Bank on Monday. She was certainly in good form, joking that it was the Queen who had given her a job. And there she was – the country’s most accessible poet, reading poems on subjects such as the lack of bees, the futility of war, anger at politicians, on the one hand and fury towards the teacher who had helped to ban one of her earlier poems from the GCSE syllabus on the other. “Cow” she said in a very loud stage whisper, as she turned the page.
Her humanity and passion influence several new poems in this volume. I liked ‘The counties’, a poem brought about by the decision of the Post Office to abandon counties in favour of post codes. I had already heard ‘Last Post’ at her reading in Brighton earlier in the year, but hearing it again, particularly as it is Rememberance Day this Sunday seemed particularly apt.
He eloquence and range of subjects is staggering. A wonderful evening with so many remarkable poems, imagining there was a woman in the moon not a man and ending with her extremely poignant poem about the death of her mother.
Of course, buying her new book and reading her poems is a joy, but hearing about the emotions that inspired her was an additional privilege.
She was accompanied by a wonderful musician, John Sampson, who played a whistle, a pipe. sackbut and other woodwind instruments which augmented some of the very special poems she read.
His accompaniment to her reading of her poem ‘The Night Before Christmas’ in a tiny book, with jewel like illustrations was particularly moving, as she brought to life the 1914 Christmas truce on the Western Front.