The Eildon Tree brings Poet Laureate to the Borders

A review of Carol Ann Duffy at Tower Mill, Heart of Hawick,
from Julian Colton

carol-ann-duffy-002Judging by the positive post event comments and long queue of folk waiting to get a signed copy, this was a very special night destined to live long in the memory as Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy gave her reading in Hawick.

A coup for The Eildon Tree in partnership with Scottish Borders Council’s superb arts venue Tower Mill, tickets were sold out months in advance and Duffy gave a massive boost to the magazine’s profile and to poetry in the Borders in general.

A brilliant reader of her work, Duffy kicked off with early masterpieces from The World’s Wife including Mrs Midas, Mrs Tiresias, Mrs Darwin and Mrs Faust.

Unsurprisingly, these were well received by a hugely entertained audience. Duffy has this uncanny ability to be both simultaneously funny and serious.

These are poems where startling images and allusions abound set in profoundly engaging narratives.

But this Poet Laureate is not one to rest on her laurels. Moving on to her recent collection entitled The Bees, which has already been reprinted, she confronted bereavement in Cold and with Rings, written with the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in mind, suggested future standard pieces.

John Barleycorn, revelling in pub names up and down the counties, demonstrated that Duffy, Britain’s first female and Britain’s first Scottish Laureate, can still engage genuinely with the social concerns of everyman (and woman) and reflect a society becoming less recognisable to its inhabitants.

Her most recent book-The Christmas Truce -set against the horrors of the First World War at the time when peace came to No Man’s Land, gives a poignant reminder to readers and audiences of their own Histories.

Finishing with her sonnet Prayer, Duffy left a lasting impression that there is great work yet to come from the remaining eight years of her official tenure.

Defying categorisation she is both mainstream and radical, accessible and serious. This is what typifies great poetry.  All poetry events should be this good.

Above right – Julian Colton welcomes Carol Ann Duffy to the Scottish Borders.


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