Carol Ann Duffy unveils tribute to ‘whirring’ electricity meters

Poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, holds up the inspiration for her poem Meters. Picture: Contributed
Poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, holds up the inspiration for her poem Meters. Picture: Contributed
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She has already penned poems in honour of the last British soldiers to fight in the First World War, the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the MPs expenses scandal and an injury suffered by David Beckham.

Now Glasgow-born poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy has unveiled a heart-felt tribute to the nation’s gas and electricity meters to mark their impending demise.

The rollout of smart meters is the biggest infrastructural change in decades so it is fitting the poet laureate has put pen to paper to mark the occasion

Sacha Deshmukh, Smart Energy GB

She has created a 300-word elegy to the “whirring wheels” of “artefacts” that will have to make way for “digital, internet meters” by 2020.

The poem has been instigated by Smart Energy GB, the campaign for the roll-out of new “smart meters,” 3.5 million of which have already been installed across the UK.

Britain’s first female poet laureate has spent several months creating the poem in honour of the meters, which she hopes will “preserve their place in household history.”

It will accompany specially-commissioned short film by BAFTA-nominated director Gary Tarn.

When plans for the poem were announced in April, Ms Duffy said she wanted to pay tribute to meters as they had been “a fixture under stairs and in cupboards for more than a hundred years.”

Ms Duffy, 60, who was brought up in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, had her first work published at the age of just 15 and released her first collection in 1974.

She was appointed poet laureat in 1999 and has since produced work tackling climate change, people who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS, the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation and the reinternment of Richard III at Leicester Cathedral.

Ms Duffy, the first Scot to be named poet laureate, said today: “Household meters are one of the most unusual topics I’ve written about.

“I hope people enjoy the poem and film, and take a moment to think about the boxes under the stairs and in hallway cupboards, which have been silently recording household life for so long.”

Sacha Deshmukh, chief Executive of Smart Energy GB, said: “Britain has a proud tradition of marking significant national moments through the creative arts.

“The rollout of smart meters is the biggest infrastructural change in decades so it is fitting the poet laureate has put pen to paper to mark the occasion. The resulting poem is a beautiful piece of writing that preserves the memory of traditional gas and electricity meters.”

An extract from ‘Meters’

by Carol Ann Duffy

Found by torchlight fingering gloom

inside the cupboard under the stairs

or in the hall, clamped to the wall;

in kitchen, garage, utility-room,

in bedsit, bungalow, semi-detached,

tenement, high-rise, council flat,

The Rochdale Electric, K. & J. White,

Ferranti, James and Graham & Co.,

measuring energy, consumed and used

by gas-oven, wireless, 2-bar fire,

40-watt lightbulb, 13-amp fuse...

for the whumf of the flame on the water-heater

it was shillings or florins into the meter.

Shillings or florins into the meter

in London, Liverpool, Llanystumdwy,

Perth, Prestatyn, Prestwich, Poole,

for the weekly bath, the hard-boiled egg,

too near the fire, the corned-beef leg,

the gramophone, the Christmas Tree lights,

the pan on the cooker simmering tripe,

Hoover, kettle, twin-tub, lamp,

sheets, shirts, steaming, damp

under the iron, the television

newly-installed for the Coronation...