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Before You Were Mine

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Subject matter The poet is writing to her mother, having seen a photo of her mother as a teenager: * She describes the photo of her mother standing laughing with two of her friends. * She knows that the thought of having a child one day doesn't occur to her mother when young, when she was wrapped up in a world of dances and teenage dreams. * Now remembering her own childhood, the poet thinks of how she used to play with her mother's red shoes and imagines when her mother might have worn those shoes to meet a boyfriend in George Square. * She remembers how her mother used to teach her dance steps when she was a child - yet even back then, the young poet wished she could have known her mother when still young and carefree (before she became a mother). Language Read the poem carefully again and think about how the language contributes to the mood of the poem. ...read more.


I'm not here yet. She speaks to her mother in a familiar way. The decade ahead of my loud, possessive yell was the best one, eh?# Sound The poem is written to sound as if the poet is talking to her mother, so the poet follows patterns of speech. Many phrases begin with I, as if the poet wants to assert her presence even before she was a presence. I'm ten years away.../ I knew you would dance like that.Iechoes through the poem. Form The poem is written in four equal stanzas of five lines each. How does this help you to see the poem? * It may help you to visualise photos in an album, set out regularly over a page. * It may help you to realise the regularity of time passing. (The poem keeps reminding us that, ten years after the photo was taken, the happy, bold teenager was a mother.) You might be able to find other ideas inspired by the form of the poem too. ...read more.


from Mass Exam Questions Question 1 Explore the ways that Carol Ann Duffy reflects on her mother's past and shows her affection for her in 'Before You Were Mine'. Teacher's Note You could comment on: * how language is used * the form and structure Now make some notes on Before you Were Mine, as if you were going to answer this question in the exam. * Allow yourself ten minutes. * Remember Point - Quote - Comment (Make a point, support it with a quotation and then explain how the language helps to add to the line's effectiveness.) The Answer The ballroom with the thousand eyes sets a very romantic scene and we can understand how the poet's mother would have been excited to go there and risk staying out late. As well as illustrating how the light played on the mirrorball, sending light across the dancefloor, the thousand eyes could refer to the eyes of five hundred potential suitors (real or imaginary) standing round watching, which would have enhanced the excitement even more. Throughout, the poet is very possessive of her mother. ...read more.

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