It was great to see an audience of over 360 parents, students, staff, and alumnae from around the world tune in to listen to Carol Ann Duffy speak about ‘The Music of Being Human’ on 1 February, for the first annual Andrew Douglas memorial lecture.
The evening began with Carol Ann reading some poems from her 2019 collection, ‘Sincerity’, a title she explained derived from classical inspiration, after the Latin ‘without wax’ meaning without flaws. From there, she moved onto addressing a series of fascinating questions posed by the Zoom audience on topics ranging from to her own creative process to her support for young poets today (publicly, spearheading a school poetry competition; privately, remodeling her house to make room for the influx of new poetry books), as well as her opinion on the significance of her gender to her achievements – did she think of herself as poet laureate or as the first female poet laureate?
There was also time to drill deeper into specific poems. Carol Ann elaborated on the inspiration behind Elvis’ Twin Sister and Anne Hathaway, which she also read aloud – two poems from her oft-studied ‘The World’s Wife’ collection, focused on the neglected female counterparts of famous male figures.
Along the way, she recalled admiration for great teaching in general and great English teachers in particular, musing that without the latter she would surely not have pursued and found such success in a poetic career. So much the more fitting as a tribute to our own Andrew Douglas, for the first annual memorial lecture in his name.
All in all, it was an inspiring evening, and a stimulating second installment of City@6.
The next lecture in the series, on Monday 1 March, will be Tim Otty QC of Blackstone Chambers. Widely recognised as a leading practitioner in public international law, constitutional law, and human rights law, Otty has an impressive legal CV, having acted in proceedings in the United States Court of Appeals against Donald Trump in 2019 and others relating to continued detentions at Guantanamo Bay. In addition to his work at the Bar, he is currently the United Kingdom’s representative on the Venice Commission (the Council of Europe’s European Commission for Democracy through Law), a Visiting Professor at Kings College London, and deputy chair of the Human Dignity Trust, an NGO he founded in 2010 to promote the legal defense of LGBT human rights around the world.