METERS by Carol Ann Duffy

You may have seen Gaz and Leccy on the telly in one or other of their ‘out of control’ antics but it’s okay – We’ll have them under control soon as smart meters will be coming to a cupboard under the stairs near you before 2020.

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy has released her most unusual poem yet, Meters, marking the passing of traditional gas and electricity meters, the coming of smart meters and an end to estimated bills.

This is an extract from an article by Brian Ferguson in the Scotsman

“The rollout of smart meters is the biggest infrastructural change in decades so it is fitting the poet laureate has put pen to paper to mark the occasion”
Sacha Deshmukh, Smart Energy GB

[Carol Ann Duffy] has created a 300-word elegy to the “whirring wheels” of “artefacts” that will have to make way for “digital, internet meters” by 2020.

The poem has been instigated by Smart Energy GB, the campaign for the roll-out of new “smart meters,” 3.5 million of which have already been installed across the UK.

Britain’s first female poet laureate has spent several months creating the poem in honour of the meters, which she hopes will “preserve their place in household history.”

It will accompany specially-commissioned short film by BAFTA-nominated director Gary Tarn.

When plans for the poem were announced in April, Ms Duffy said she wanted to pay tribute to meters as they had been “a fixture under stairs and in cupboards for more than a hundred years.”

She was appointed poet laureat in 1999 and has since produced work tackling climate change, people who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS, the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation and the re-internment of Richard III at Leicester Cathedral.

Ms Duffy, the first Scot to be named poet laureate, said today: “Household meters are one of the most unusual topics I’ve written about.

“I hope people enjoy the poem and film, and take a moment to think about the boxes under the stairs and in hallway cupboards, which have been silently recording household life for so long.”

Sacha Deshmukh, chief Executive of Smart Energy GB, said: “Britain has a proud tradition of marking significant national moments through the creative arts.

Smart Energy GB


Found by torchlight fingering gloom

inside the cupboard under the stairs

or in the hall, clamped to the wall;

in kitchen, garage, utility-room,

in bedsit, bungalow, semi-detached,

tenement, high-rise, council flat,

The Rochdale Electric, K. & J. White,

Ferranti, James and Graham & Co.,

measuring energy, consumed and used

by gas-oven, wireless, 2-bar fire,

40-watt lightbulb, 13-amp fuse…

for the whumf of the flame on the water-heater

it was shillings or florins into the meter.

Shillings or florins into the meter

in London, Liverpool, Llanystumdwy,

Perth, Prestatyn, Prestwich, Poole,

for the weekly bath, the hard-boiled egg,

too near the fire, the corned-beef leg,

the gramophone, the Christmas Tree lights,

the pan on the cooker simmering tripe,

Hoover, kettle, twin-tub, lamp,

sheets, shirts, steaming, damp

under the iron, the television

newly-installed for the Coronation…

then the luxury of central heating and quarterly

bills and a meter reading.

Quarterly bills and a meter reading

by the man from the Gas, Electricity Board,

polite, peak-capped, alert for dogs,

checking the digits under the disc,

the whirring wheel, the soft tick

of monitored moments skyping, googling,

downloading, scanning, Facebooking;

out at sea the wind-farms churning

air into profit, the salty breeze

powering the big flatscreen TVs,

the underfloor heating, costs mounting…

the kilowatt hours burning, turning,

meters, like monks in their cells, counting.

Like monks in cells, the meters, counting

well-thumbed, numbered days and nights

beneath the energy-saving lights

as though murmuring prayers, clicking beads

to the switching On and Off of needs;

each private, domestic revolution

circling the time of its own extinction

when mechanical meters, old Latin tomes,

stand behind glass in hushed museums,

gun-metal grey, silvery, black,

from household gods to artefacts…

while digital, internet meters glean

that History’s bill to the Future’s green.

History’s bill to the Future’s green.


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