The Unusualness of Carol Anne Duffy s Poetry
Carol Anne Duffy s poetry like quite a lot of modern poetry is not traditionally written. It does not rhyme and punctuation differs from how it would have been traditionally written. Also sentences do not start and end in orthodox places for example; in Valentine sentences cross lines :-
I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.
The poems are odd in other ways. The titles of the poems are not remarkable in themselves but when you start to read the poems it becomes apparent that they are not written conventionally. The poet has used many abstract ideas in the poems. This is most noticeable in Valentine . It starts off oddly with the line Not a red rose or a satin heart. This is very untraditional as it is a blunt, forthright statement. The phrase is a stereotypical clich of what most people imagine Valentines Day to be about. Duffy then proceeds to shred the clich to pieces with her next line. I give you an onion. This is very contrasting to the first statement because it is about as far as you can get from a romantic image.
Whereas Valentine was weird n wacky In Mrs Tilscher s Class is actually very clever. The idea of the school year very ingeniously encompasses the aspect, albeit an abstract one, of growing up. It starts with the beginning of the school year, and this signifies the beginning of adolescence and goes through becoming more and more sexually orientated as the poem progresses. This is demonstrated by the idea of the rough boy telling you about how you were born. The end of the poem, as the sky split open into a thunderstorm. could signify many things. I believe it is really talking about the way life is very sheltered in school, as a child, and when you go out into the real world it is like a sailing into a huge great thunderstorm compared to the protected harbour in which your boat was moored.
Another adroit poem is Before You Were Mine as it is written as if the poet could see over a decade before she was born how her mum s life was. The idea of the bouncy, playful girl that was her mum in her youth is interspersed with snatches of phrases about the pop idol of the time; Marilyn Monroe. This is woven into the clothes and mannerisms of both the poem and those in it. For example: Your polka-dot dress blows round your legs. Marilyn. and The three of you bend from the waist, holding each other, or your knees,
Stealing is atypical because it is colloquial in style with the setting being the psychiatrist s chair. The colloquial style is accentuated by the line at the end of the poem; You don t understand a word I m saying, do you? This line is directed at two places at once. The reader is asked, as a joke, because of the abnormality of the poem, and the psychiatrist is asked because he probably really does not understand what the patient is on about.
None of Carol Anne Duffy s poems are difficult to understand but it is just that little hint of uncertainty which makes the reader slightly uneasy about what is actually happening.