Britain’s lesbian poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy has won the 2012 Pen Pinter prize. The annual prize is awarded to any British writer or writer living in Britain of ‘outstanding literary merit’.
Awarded since 2009, the prize was set up in memory of playwright Harold Pinter who said in his Nobel prize speech that good writing should cast an ‘unflinching, unswerving’ gaze on the world and show ‘fierce intellectual determination… to define the real truth of our lives and our societies’.
PEN International, a charity campaigning for the freedom to write and read all over the world, supports the prize, which combines a British winner with an international writer who has been persecuted for their beliefs.
Previous British winners were Tony Harrison, Hanif Kureshi and Sir David Hare, who were joined by the international writers Zarganar (Maung Thura), Lydia Cacho and Roberto Saviano.
Duffy will chose this year’s international winner with the English Pen writers at risk committee.
It was rumored that Duffy missed out on becoming poet laureate, a honorary position awarded since 1707 by the UK’s monarch and prime minister, in 1999 because then prime minister Tony Blair didn’t think a lesbian should have the position.
However in 2009 she became the first female poet laureate. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said she was a ‘truly brilliant modern poet’.
In a 2005 interview by Jeanette Winterson, Duffy said: ‘I’m not a lesbian poet, whatever that is. If I am a lesbian icon and a role model, that’s great, but if it is a word that is used to reduce me, then you have to ask why someone would want to reduce me? I never think about it. I don’t care about it. I define myself as a poet and as a mother – that’s all.’