The poet is the fourth recipient of the award, for her 'independent and sometimes awkward' responses to living in Britain today
The £1,000 award was set up by PEN to commemorate the playwright Harold Pinter, taking as its criteria the author's own words on winning the Nobel and looking for a writer who casts an "unflinching, unswerving" gaze upon the world and shows "a fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies". Duffy is the fourth author to win the prize, after the playwright David Hare, the novelist Hanif Kureishi and the poet Tony Harrison, and was chosen by a judging panel of Hare, Margaret Drabble, Melvyn Bragg, Antonia Fraser and the president of English PEN Gillian Slovo.
"Carol Ann Duffy is a great poet: in addition we were all struck by [her] propensity for being independent and sometimes awkward, to make important points through her work. She comments on contemporary events directly in a way we do not believe a poet laureate has done before," said Fraser, Pinter's widow.
Fraser praised Duffy's quick poetic response to the news that the exam board AQA had ordered an anthology containing her poem Education for Leisure to be removed from its GCSE curriculum for glorifying knife crime. "It was wonderful – not every author could do that," she said.
And Pinter himself was a fan of Duffy's, revealed Fraser. "In a way poetry was his first love," she said. "He was a playwright, that's what he put on his passport, but poetry was his first love. And Carol Ann Duffy is a very good choice: she's so wonderfully outspoken, which is what the prize is about."
Described by PEN as "one of the most significant names in contemporary British poetry", Duffy will receive her prize on 8 October at an event at the British Library, where she will read several new poems as well as announce the name of the persecuted writer she has chosen to share the prize with. "I am hugely honoured and moved to receive an award which commemorates one of the greatest English writers of the 20th century," she said.