Carol Ann Duffy's Poetry
Compare 3 poems by Carol Ann Duffy in which she shows us that
things are not always as expected.
Carol Ann Duffy is a renowned poet across the UK and her work is very
popular. Many different age groups can study her poems as they can be
interpreted and understood in different ways. She achieves this in her
poems by the descriptions and varying linguistic devices used.
One of the reasons that Carol Ann Duffy’s poems are so popular is that
they are often quite unexpected. Duffy is not afraid to tackle
difficult or unpleasant topics. She writes her poems very personally
and with deep feelings. This makes it a lot more powerful to the
reader and evokes some kind of reaction within them.
Duffy’s poems go deeper than first impressions. It is only after
reading them several times that you can gain any understanding of the
ideas and feelings that she is trying to get across. The reason for
this is that the poems usually steer away from the conventional views
and expectations. Often Carol Ann Duffy will open the poem on a line
that is unusual, or shocking. This makes the poem seem more intriguing
and perhaps surprising.
‘Valentine’ is a poem that is surprising and shocking from the first
line. A title such as ‘Valentine’ indicates a poem that will be about
love and all the clichéd objects and feelings surrounding it. However,
we are told in the first line that it is ‘not a red rose or a satin
heart.’ -This is quite a negative line to start with. The ‘not’ gives
the impression that not everything will be as it seems in ‘Valentine.’
Already there is a distinct difference between ‘Valentine’ and the two
other poems (‘In Mrs Tilscher’s Class’ and ‘Before you were mine’)
that I have chosen to write about in this essay. ‘Valentine’ opens on
a pessimistic note, whereas ‘Before you were mine’ and ‘In Mrs
Tilscher’s Class’ both start off on a light and happy tone. - Instead
we are presented with ‘an onion’. She uses this symbol as an extended
metaphor (an extended metaphor is also used in ‘In Mrs Tilscher’s
class’) to talk about a lover. This is the opposite of what other
poet’s would do. They would talk about a lover using symbols, not the
other way around. This just reiterates that with Carol Ann Duffy
expect the unexpected.
An onion is obviously an unusual comparison, but she goes on to
explain it and dispel all the old notions of love. She banishes the
orthodox ideas as untruthful and unrealistic. Duffy gives us all of
the things that we do not expect from a love poem. Assumptions are
wrong. Expectations, conventions are broken, even shattered by what we
read in the poem.
Duffy links the qualities of an onion to those of love. ‘It is a moon
wrapped in brown paper.’ You have to remove the ‘brown paper’ to
reveal the ‘moon’; you also have to, literally remove the skin before
you can see the onion; and remove the layers of a person before you
can see their personality. And when...