As our national poetry month ends, the 10-year term for Britain's new poet laureate, Glasgow-born Carol Ann Duffy, begins. The 53 year old is the first woman to hold the position in its 341-year history.

Accessible yet insightful, Duffy's work has achieved best-selling status in the UK, and she was a front-runner for poet laureate in 1999 (rumor has it that she lost out to Andrew Motion only because Tony Blair was worried about a lesbian laureate alienating "Middle England"). The Guardian reports that Duffy, who was somewhat reluctant to accept the position, is donating the approximately $11,000 yearly stipend to the Poetry Society but will accept the 600 bottles of sherry that are traditionally granted to the laureate.

Maybe it's because they serve longer terms (prior to Motion's appointment, the position was for life), but it seems like British poets laureate get a lot more press than their American counterparts. Of course, we did appoint our first woman way back in 1945. But can anyone name her, or our current poet laureate (also female)?  Answer is after the jump, along with a poem from Duffy.

America's first female poet laureate was Louise Bogan.

Our current poet laureate? Kay Ryan.

And a sample of Duffy's work:


Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

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