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AS and A Level: Carol Ann Duffy

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Depictions of Love

  1. 1 Duffy’s collection Rapture traces the progression of a love affair from beginning to end. It is worth considering the meanings and effects invested in our knowledge that the affair (also autobiographical) has ended.
  2. 2 Duffy does not assign a direct gender to her lover. How might this inform your response to the poetry?
  3. 3 Look for binary oppositions throughout the collection: the modern versus the traditional, feminine language versus masculine language, sacred versus profane.
  4. 4 Consider the significance of using 2nd person or the ‘vocative’, addressing a lover in their absence.
  5. 5 Consider the importance of using past tense and present tense: what does each provide? How is the reader positioned when reading each poem?

Writing about Duffy's poetry

  1. 1 Although the Rapture collection is autobiographical, do not confuse Duffy with the ‘persona’, ‘poetic voice’ or ‘narrator’ of the poem. The narrator is a much a construct as any other character.
  2. 2 Avoid proceeding through poems chronologically, which leads to repetition and suggests that you haven’t constructed an argument.
  3. 3 Similarly, describing the ‘events’ of the poem avoids addressing the question.
  4. 4 Use terminology to describe particular techniques such as enjambement, caesura, internal rhyme, etc. This shows your knowledge of poetic devices.
  5. 5 Be sure, once you have identified a technique, to develop the significance of its use in terms of the meanings generated and the effects produced.

Essay work on Duffy's poetry

  1. 1 When planning, brainstorm your response according to the wording of the question and try to address it directly throughout.
  2. 2 Aim for a balanced response which demonstrates that poetry can be read in different ways: there is never one, reductive ‘translation’ but usually a variety of meanings and interpretations.
  3. 3 Responses should be paragraphed by using topic sentences at the beginning of each. These function to address an aspect of the title and delineate what the paragraph will cover e.g. Duffy addresses the theme of love in a variety of ways throughout the collection.
  4. 4 Embed quotations frequently, to show your knowledge of the text.
  5. 5 Similarly, when considering a single poem, you can briefly cross refer to other poems in the collection in order to reinforce the connections between them and generate a stronger sense of its position.

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  1. How do you feel about the ways in which old age is presented in 'Old man, Old Man' and 'Warning'?

    Change comes across because the writer is planning to do things she wouldn't do at the present time such as 'wear purple / with a red hat' or spend money on useless trivialities. In a way the writer views old age as a second childhood. In 'Old Man, Old Man' old age is seen as the loss of independence and how that has changed how the old man lives compared to how he lived when he was younger and more independent 'Things in bottles with tacky labels.

    • Word count: 856
  2. Comparing 'Hide and Seek', 'Half past Two' and 'Leaving school'

    The end of the poem is also very sad and lonely, enhanced by the darkness described. All these factors together produce a dark, lonely and upsetting mood, these factors are easily shown by the child's character which is soft, small, frightened and easily upset from the description that we get. Half past Two is also written in a third person perspective. The language and viewpoint of the entire poem is that of a young child's point of view, this is shown in the language.

    • Word count: 513
  3. Discuss Faulkner’s use of style in each character’s section of the novel The Sound and the Fury.

    His voice took on a gentle calm tone, and Benjy's handicap was the basis for such a nonlinear array of events. Colors, especially red, fire, mirrors, shapes, and nature are all triggers that send his mind whirling back into the past. This chaotic section portrays the 'chaotic' mind of Benjy. Not unlike Benjy, Quentin often finds himself caught up in the past. His section follows immediately after Benjy's, and takes on a more coherent tone. Memories such as the "sassprilluh" at Caddy's wedding and Caddy's muddy drawers that were discussed previously are described from his point of view.

    • Word count: 897
  4. Before You Were Mine

    Language Read the poem carefully again and think about how the language contributes to the mood of the poem. There are many references to her mother as happy and bright - you laugh / the bold girl winking in Portobello/ you sparkle and waltz and laugh Life back then is seen as very glamorous. Her mother is linked to Marilyn(Monroe)and goes to a dance where a glitter ball hangs - the thousand eyes. Her mother dreams of fizzy, movie tomorrows, and she imagines her mother meeting a boyfriend under the tree, with its lights There is a contrast between her mother's life as a teenager and as a mother of the young poet.

    • Word count: 1295
  5. In Mrs. Tilscher's Class - Carol Ann Duffy Poem Analysis

    skittle, which can refer to an indication of enjoyment and pleasure from the children, thus is a characteristic every aspect of primary school life. ?And the chalky pyramids rubbed into dust.? adds symbols of the ancient buildings, which could be controllable in the hands of the teacher, being able to draw and destroy the pyramids, rubbing them into dust. This is used to give a sense of security and safety in the eyes of the students. ?A window opened with a long pole; the laugh of a bell swung by a running child? is a personification as the child is the one supposed to be laughing but instead it is mentioned that the laugh was made by the bell.

    • Word count: 1269
  6. Analysis of 'Before You Were Mine'

    She also takes on the role as a parent in the third stanza to reinforce this notion: ?Whose small bites on your neck, sweetheart?? The reoccurrence of the possession by the child gives the reader a sense that Duffy?s mother had lost her freedom. Duffy refers to this loss of freedom throughout the poem and youthful life of glamour and vivacity that she perceives her mother to have had before she was born. This is supported through the quotations: ?I knew you would dance like that?? and ??dress blows around your knees.

    • Word count: 716
  7. Compare the representation of relationships in the poems Text, Forest, Row and Quickdraw

    Repetition emphasises the stage in which the relationship has developed. ?Text? uses the repetition of ?text, text, text? to illustrate the almost obsession Carol develops as the relationship progresses. Forest uses the repetition of ?Kissed, kissed? to emphasise the intimate undertone of the poem, whereas ?Row? repeats the words ?no kiss, no kiss?; reflecting the deterioration of their relationship as the word ?kiss? becomes a symbol of togetherness throughout the book. Duffy uses semantic field of nature in ?Forest? to reiterate how she feels the relationships progression involving intimacy was as natural to her as ?rough bark? or the ?loam on [her] bare feet?.

    • Word count: 1046
  8. Light can take on many different forms, some more prominent than others. This concept is explored through the poem, The Grammar of Light, written by Carol Ann Duffy.

    The poem is arranged into five stanzas, each with its own setting and time of day to unify the whole literary piece into one length of time; a day. It starts from one midnight to the next, taking the reader through a journey that could possibly be compared to the length of one?s lifetime. The first stanza starts its time during the late night. This is evident because the speaker addresses the way light works in the dark. The first two lines could be understood as two lovers are trying to find each other in the dark but there is enough light from them to ?bless? them with a ?meaningless O? which could represent a kiss between the two lovers.

    • Word count: 1378
  9. Duffy has said that violence and evil arent owned by men. How far is this borne out in the poem Delilah?

    ?Delilah? opens with a directive from Samson, ?Teach me... how to care,? introduces the true character of Samson. It indicates that he?s commanding and wanting from Delilah, showing his physical powers (conforming); however he wants to be taught how to care. This suggests that Delilah holds emotive power over him, which can be more destructive. The hyphen in the first line is indicative of Delilah reporting the event, creating a metre that can be seen as very sexual, suggestive of Delilah using sexual powers to gain what she wants as shown in ?What do you mean?

    • Word count: 1245
  10. How does Duffy present personal experience of war in Passing Bells?

    This soldier was someone?s friend, someone?s son, someone?s brother, even. Yet their death goes seemingly unnoticed, insignificant almost, because no-one knows. However, this makes the moment more personal to the fellow comrade, his friend, who witnessed his death and could only watched as the light left his eyes and the ?soldier?s soul slipped through his wounds?. This moment is so emotional and personal to the witness of it, and Duffy captures this image perfectly in the first few lines in Passing Bells.

    • Word count: 1483
  11. Carol Ann Duffy Shooting Stars Analysis

    The poem begins with "After I no longer speak they break our fingers to salvage my wedding ring". Duffy opens the poem by using shock tactics which catch the reader?s attention and also prepares us for the rest of the poem. This spoken by a dead Jewish woman is a shocking description telling how the Germans would take anything valuable off the Jewish women and how they value jewellery more than human life. The word "Salvage" is usually used to mean saving useful parts of something which is being disposed of, the associations of this word clearly indicates the lack of respect and care the Germans had for the dead Jewish bodies.

    • Word count: 1504
  12. Duffy presents us with characters that conform to gender expectations, reinforcing gender stereotypes. To what extent do you agree with this view?

    through this Duffy seems to imply that she is leaving childhood and her innocence behind her in order to let the wolf lead her 'deep into the woods/ away from home.' The narrator also describes herself as 'sweet sixteen' and a 'waif,' perhaps trying to portray how she imagines the wolf perceives her. Viewing the young girl as weak is more suitable in terms of the original fairytale, however, in Duffy's poem it is Little Red-Cap who '[claps] eyes on the wolf' and '[makes] sure that he [spots her].'

    • Word count: 656
  13. In this collection Duffy shows no sympathy for men. How far do you agree with this assessment of The Worlds Wife?

    Duffy, through the use of a rhyming couplet and first person narrative, makes the reader imagine how the persona is getting ready to kill the ?wolf? and ?cuts it from scrotum to throat.? This demonstrates to us, the reader that the killing is quick, sharp and no emotion is present as indicated by the simple verb of ?cuts?. Moreover, the persona cuts the wolf in the two places which initially attracted her as these are the two aspects of him which lure naive girls, as indicated by the ?glistening white bones of my grandmother?.

    • Word count: 711
  14. Close Analysis of Carol Ann Duffys Mrs Aesop.

    In many of the tales, animals speak and have human characteristics. The poems relate to Duffy in every way possible as it emphasises that she was an extreme feminist, all of her poems put women in power even if in the original story it was the men that held it. In these poems Duffy empowers the females and dis - empowers the males in order to show dominance and superiority. Mrs Aesop is told by Duffy as the wife of the famous story teller, she tells her story as a dramatic monologue.

    • Word count: 889
  15. Language constructs meaning. Analyse how true this is of Duffy's poems "Foreign" and "Nostalgia".

    In ?Nostalgia?, Duffy displays the melancholy suffered by the early Swiss ?mercenaries? going to wars and battles through a variety of diction. As they leave the ?high, fine air? to go ?down, down?, Duffy shows their emotional sadness in this repetition; they have left their homeland for wars and sacrificed the pleasure of living with their family, which is obviously not worth it. They can only receive ?money, dull crude coins clenched in the teeth? for doing this, as this alliteration further emphasises their emotional pain and suffering.

    • Word count: 1307

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