Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy reflects on First World War with centenary sonnet

Scottish poet Carol Ann Duffy has written a solemn new poem to mark the centenary of Armistice Day.

Events in all six locations will centre around the drawing of a large-scale portrait of a casualty from the First World War. Picture: contributed

The sonnet, released today and entitled The Wound in Time, is one of the Glasgow writer’s last official works 
as poet laureate before her decade-long tenure ends in May.

Filmmaker Danny Boyle invited Duffy to write the poem as part of Pages of the Sea, which will see thousands of people gather on beaches across the UK and the Republic of Ireland on 11 November to pay tribute to war dead.

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Boyle’s Pages of the Sea commemoration is inspired by the last line of Duffy’s poem, which he hopes will be read by individuals, families and communities as they gather on beaches on Armistice Day.

Boyle said: “I hope that Carol Ann Duffy’s poem will be something that you’ll read privately as individuals, or with friends, or publicly amongst people on the beach on 11 November.

“Poetry in First World War was such an extraordinary art form – it reported in the way that television does now on experiences that were unimaginable to the people at home.”

Over the past five years, works by 200 artists from 35 countries, taking place in 160 locations across the UK, have been commissioned as part of the project.

On Remembrance Sunday, which falls on 11 November this year, people are invited to assemble at one of a number of beaches at low tide to take part in a series of community-led events, including readings of The Wound in Time.

Six Scottish beaches have been chosen as part of the commemoration: St Ninian’s Isle beach in Shetland, West Sands in St Andrews, Scapa beach in Orkney, Ayr Beach, Burghead Bay beach on the Moray Firth and Cula Bay beach on the isle of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides.

Last week, the National Theatre of Scotland announced that events in all six locations will centre around the drawing of a large-scale portrait of a casualty from the First World War with a connection to the local community.

The public will also be asked to create silhouettes of people in the sand, remembering the millions of lives lost or changed forever by conflict.

Jackie Wylie, artistic director and chief executive of National Theatre of Scotland, said: “Our nation has an enduring and emotive connection to the sea and our beautiful coastline has seen many come and go throughout history. Pages of the Sea will create an artistic tribute, both personal and communal, through art, words, pictures and stories, acknowledging all those who left our shores during WW1.”

Duffy, who was appointed Britain’s Poet Laureate in 2009, has written about the First World War on many occasions throughout her lengthy career.