Carol Ann Duffy said she was "honoured and humbled" to be named the new Poet Laureate — the first female laureate in the post’s 341-year history.
The 53-year-old, who is also the first Scot to take on the job, succeeds Andrew Motion, who held the post from 1999.
She plans to give the £5,000-plus salary for the 10-year job to the Poetry Society. The cash would fund a prize for the best poetry collection of the year.
Welcoming the appointment, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "She is a truly brilliant modern poet who has stretched our imaginations by putting the whole range of human experiences into lines that capture the emotions perfectly and I wish her well for her 10 year term."
Duffy said: "I’m very honoured and humbled to become Poet Laureate, not only when I think of some of the great poets who have occupied the post since the 17th century, but when I think of some of the wonderful poets writing now.
"The continuance of the laureateship is important because it properly draws attention to the central role that poetry can play in the lives of ordinary people.
"Poetry is all around us, all of the time, whether in song or in speech or on the page, and we turn to it when events, personal or public, matter most.”