By clicking "Accept All Cookies" you agree that we and third parties acting on our behalf may store cookies on your device to enhance your experience of our site, allow us to analyse usage of our site, and assist us in our marketing efforts. More information about how we use cookies is set out in our cookie notice.

More information   Accept
What are you looking for?

Poet Laureate publishes 'Meters'

29th July 2016

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy has today published the poem Meters, marking the passing of traditional gas and electricity meters, the coming of smart meters and an end to estimated bills. 

The 300-word elegy to the “whirring wheels” of “artefacts” that are making way for smart meters has been set to an accompanying short film by BAFTA-nominated director Gary Tarn, immortalising traditional meters while looking to an inspiring, digital, green future. 

Since her appointment as Poet Laureate by HM The Queen in May 2009, Carol Ann Duffy has written verse for significant national occasions such as the ‘Last Post’, which marked the deaths of Henry Allingham and Harry Patch, the last two British soldiers to fight in Word War I, ‘Achilles (for David Beckham)’ about the Achilles tendon injury that left England footballer David Beckham out of the 2010 World Cup and ‘Rings’ for the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. 

The replacement of traditional gas and electricity meters with smart meters in every British home and small business by 2020 is the latest moment of historical significance recorded by the Poet Laureate. 

In November last year the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performed ‘A Requiem for the Meter’, a three-minute piece of music played entirely on instruments made from traditional gas and electricity meters. The Requiem was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and released for free on Spotify to raise awareness of the coming of smart meters.

Sacha Deshmukh, Chief Executive of Smart Energy GB, said:

“Britain has a proud tradition of marking significant national moments through the creative arts. 

Smart meters will transform the experience of every household in the country so it is fitting that the Poet Laureate has put pen to paper to mark the occasion. The resulting poem, Meters, is a beautiful piece of writing that preserves the memory of traditional gas and electricity meters and looks forward to the digital future brought about by the coming of smart meters.”

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, said: 

“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.”

METERS by Carol Ann Duffy

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.

Over 3.5 million smart meters have already been installed across Great Britain. Eight in ten people with smart meters would recommend one and four in five (79 per cent) of people with smart meters say they have taken steps to save energy such as turning off lights, turning their heating down or changing the way household appliances are used. This national transformation is empowering people, in their homes, to bring down Britain’s carbon footprint and linking every home to a smarter grid, fit for the future. 

Watch Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Meters’ online on Smart Energy GB’s YouTube channel

For more information on smart meters and the national smart meter rollout visit this page


Please right click to save images or, for a wider selection, download images from this page.

Carol Ann Duffy traditional meter - landscape 4
Carol Ann Duffy traditional meter - landscape 5
Carol Ann Duffy traditional meter - landscape 8
Carol Ann Duffy traditional meter - landscape 6


Central heating
Washing machine
In-home display title
Wind turbine

– Ends –

For more information and interview requests, please contact the Smart Energy GB press office at Shine Communications on 020 7100 7100 and [email protected]

Notes to editors:

About Smart Energy GB

Smart Energy GB is the voice of the smart meter rollout. It’s our task to help everyone in Great Britain understand smart meters, the national rollout and how to use their new meters to get their gas and electricity under control. Our national campaign has already begun and will reach all households and microbusinesses in England, Scotland and Wales. For more information visit this page

About smart meters and the rollout

Smart meters will replace the traditional meters we currently have in our homes. They will provide consumers with accurate bills, near real time information on energy usage in pounds and pence, and greater control over their gas and electricity. The smart meter rollout is an essential technology upgrade, unprecedented in its scale, to improve Great Britain’s energy infrastructure. Between now and 2020, everyone across England, Scotland and Wales will be offered a smart meter by their energy supplier at no extra cost. More than 3.5 million smart meters have already been installed. To find out how you can get a smart meter from your energy supplier, pick up a leaflet from your local Post Office branch or visit this page.