THE Glasgow-born poet laureate to the Queen Carol Ann Duffy is to take centre-stage in a major new exhibition at Holyrood Palace next year - which will celebrate around 350 years of Britain’s poets laureate.
She will be helping to organise the Edinburgh Festival show at the Queen’s Gallery which will mark the halfway point in her own tenure in the role.
It will be the first major exhibition of work by the 57-year-old poet, who became the first Scot and the first woman to be appointed to the position in May 2009, replacing Andrew Motion.
Around half the exhibition - which will run for four months at the palace - will be devoted to the Gorbals-born writer’s work, including specially-created versions of her poems by the Manchester-born textual artist Stephen Raw, a regular collaborator with Duffy.
The exhibition, organised by the Queen’s own Royal Collection Trust, will also feature a host of little-seen items presented by the various poets laureate to reigning monarchs, as well as other previous literary artefacts.
These include lavish volumes, original manuscripts, annotated collections and images of the likes of John Dryden, the first poet laureate appointed by Charles II in 1668, William Wordsworth, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, John Betjeman and Ted Hughes.
The exhibition will chart the development of the role over three and a half centuries, offer an insight into the background to some of the poems and lift the lid on the relationships between the various poets and monarchs.
Deborah Clarke, curator at Holyrood Palace, said: “A lot of the material in the exhibition is pretty special, including hand-written messages from the poets to the monarchs of the time, and has very rarely gone on display before, as they are kept in storage in the royal library. Some of the work going on display is in a very fragile condition.
“Carol Ann Duffy was very keen on doing something like this at the palace to mark the halfway point of her laureateship - the exhibition won’t have been seen anywhere at all before it opens in Edinburgh next August. We’ll be showing a lot of the work she has produced since she was appointed to the role.”
Duffy said: “Being poet laureate for nearly five years now has been a joy and a privilege. I’ve been truly excited to work with the Royal Collection on this exhibition which explores the changing role of laureates through the centuries.”
Robyn Marsack, director of the Scottish Poetry Library, said: “This is set to be a fascinating exhibition of poets speaking truth to power as well as those who were anxious to please, and in the era of machine writing, there will be a particular immediacy in seeing the handwriting of some of our best authors, as well as the interpretations of Carol Ann Duffy’s poems by text artist Stephen Raw.
“The Scottish Poetry Library is delighted to have been a consultant to the project, and we look forward to the exhibition’s taking place in this literary heart of Edinburgh.”
Duffy, who moved to England with her family when she was six, had her first work published when she was 15, studied at Liverpool University, and began well known for her work after winning the National Poetry Competition in 1983, two years before publishing her first volume of poetry, Standing Female Nude. She was appointed a professor of poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University and creative director of its writing school.
Among the subjects she has tackled as poet laureate have been the MPs expenses scandal, the banking crisis, David Beckham’s injury problems, the Icelandic volcano crisis and the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
• Poetry for the Palace: Poets Laureate from Dryden to Duffy will run from 7 August to 2 November 2014