Beckham woes immortalised by Laureate
'Achilles' identifies a footballer's ruptured tendon as a central ingredient in life and elevates it to the status of heroic myth.
Admittedly this is not just any footballer, although even David Beckham's friends would agree that he is not the player he once was.
Yesterday Ms Duffy made no attempt to play down the universal significance of the latest twist in Beckham's very public life, an injury sustained playing for AC Milan on Sunday that has ruled him out of a record fourth World Cup.
"He is almost a mythical figure himself, in popular culture," she said. "People like Beckham in their public lives are stories the rest of us follow. The whole point of Greek myths is the combination of triumph and tragedy.
"In many ways he's very human, and the interesting thing about taking ordinary people with a particular talent and making them into heroes is when they are seen at their most human.
"The most tragic image was him being unable to walk and crying on the side of the pitch. You just thought how all the money in the world and private planes can't sort this. It was a very moving moment."
Ms Duffy, a popular choice for the ten-year laureateship and the first woman to hold the post. 'Achilles' is probably not as instantly memorable as Alfred Lord Tennyson's thundering tribute to 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' and the "noble six hundred" riding into the Valley of Death. Nor is it as multi-layered and devastating as Ted Hughes's reflections on Sylvia Plath's suicide in 'Birthday Letters'.
But just as Andrew Motion's tenure was marked by his painful rap to celebrate Prince William's 21st birthday, so Ms Duffy may have written a defining text of her tenure. Not that she is expecting its subject to tell her so.
"I'm a lot more likely to watch football than he is to read poetry," she said.
Meanwhile, Victoria Beckham flew to Finland yesterday where her husband was recovering from the operation on his damaged Achilles tendon. (© The Times, London)