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Carol Ann Duffy - 'Valentine' and 'Before You Were Mine'

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Carol Ann Duffy- 'Valentine' and 'Before You Were Mine' Question 3 In this piece, I am writing about the two poems, 'Valentine' and 'Before You Were Mine'. Both poems have many strong emotions and feelings The title of the poem 'Valentine' written by Carol Ann Duffy is very misleading. One would expect to read romantic love, instead she writes about the cynicism of love. This would lead you to believe that she has been hurt in previous romantic liaisons. The poem starts off with a positive statement-'not a red rose, or a satin heart'. By this she is stating that she will not give her lover a conventional valentine present. The make up and use of these consonants portrays a feeling of harshness and sets the tone of the poem. The poet has chosen to give her lover an onion. She uses the onion to symbolize love. This indicates that we never really know what a person is really intending, or that the romantic happiness that we expect to enjoy more often than not turns sour and unpleasant. She uses a metaphor to convey this idea. 'I give you an onion, it is moon wrapped in brown paper,'- With this imagery she creates an air of suspense. ...read more.


The possessive pronoun 'Mine' enforces the idea of a close mother daughter relationship. She can imagine her mother 'ma' waiting to reprehend her for being late. Knowing her mother has spirit, she will think that the punishment was nothing compared to the fun she had just had. 'You reckon it's worth it'. Carol Ann Duffy realizes that her birth changed her mother's life dramatically; she had to be responsible and look after her from a child through to adulthood. In the third stanza, she states that the ten years before she was born were probably the best years of her mother's life. 'The decade ahead of my loud possessive yell was the best one, eh?' She uses a rhetorical question. She does not really want her mother to confirm that statement. In her imagination, she sees her mother clattering in high heeled shoes 'I remember my hand in those high heeled red shoes relics and now your ghost clatters towards me over George Square'- the image is vivid she uses an effective metaphor to show this is like 'a scent'. She indicates once more that her mother was a free spirit 'and those small bites on your neck, sweet heart?'- Another rhetorical question. ...read more.


The poet uses effective ways and different techniques to portray her ideas and entertain. In both poems, terms such as similes, "like a lover", used in "Valentine", he repeated 'l' sounds almost as if the poet was teasing us, as if she knows the relationship will not work out. However "clear as scent", as used in "Before You Were Mine", gives the feeling of sincerity. She also uses interesting metaphors, "Like a moon wrapped in brown paper" this creates an air of mystery around the subject. And alliteration, "trying to be truthful" the repetition of the 't' sound gives a feeling of sincerity and honesty. Enjambment and caesura are used in "Before You Were Mine" as well as rhetorical questions, creating interest, "the decade ahead of my loud possessive yell was the best one eh?" I enjoyed studying both 'Valentine' and 'Before You Were Mine'. But I preferred 'Valentine'. It interests me how Carol Ann Duffy conceived the idea of comparing love to an onion. I would like to ask her what inspired her in writing this poem, as it is unusual and clever. There is a lot of truth in this poem, but it is represented in a very different way to what the reader would of expected from its name. This poem represents the true conundrum of Love. ...read more.

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