Duffy's Style

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Duffy’s Style

In her poems Carol Ann Duffy explores many subjects and themes including love, a female’s perspective of well known legend, dream-like poems, other people and poems from her own experience.  Some poems with these themes include, ‘Valentine’, ‘Mrs. Midas’, ‘Dream of a Lost Friend’, ‘War Photographer’ and ‘Originally’.

        Many of Duffy’s poems are in a speaking voice (monologue).  Some are humorous, some serious and others are very realistic.  The poet uses images and imagery, sensory and emotional writing to convey ideas.  To make the reader aware of an important part of the poem or to keep an idea with them, Duffy uses a variety of sentence structures and different styles.

        She often uses narrators.  A persona (which most of her poems are set in) allows Duffy to express an idea from another point of view.  

        The structure that she uses in her poems contains regular stanzas and both internal and external rhyme.  

        In this essay I will be discussing the poems Valentine, War Photographer and Prayer.  I have chosen Valentine, as it is a poem that has a touch of humour but also brings about a serious point about love.  It makes the reader think about love from a different angle and it challenges people’s ideas about valentine.  War Photographer is a poem that is written from a serious view.  I have chosen this poem as it makes the reader think about someone who has had to witness war and the way they feel.  It also makes you think about the consequences of war.  Carol Ann Duffy conveys many ideas in this poem and uses words that make the reader look closer at what she is actually trying to convey.

Valentine is a poem based on a traditional idea and event but is twisted.  In this poem Duffy challenges ideas of the ‘normal’ Valentine.  The poem is written in the first person and addresses the lover in the second person by using ‘you’.  The whole poem is centred on an onion and love.  Duffy compares an onion to love.  She makes the reader aware that both love and onions share the same characteristics, for example love can make you cry (if your lover has betrayed or upset you) and an onion can also make you cry (when cutting it).

        The beginning of each half of the poem is started with what has not been given is written.  For example: ‘Not a red rose or a satin heart’.  There are four line verses, with the additional one line of the offering of the gift to the unseen person.    

        The poem has no clear argument however a series of observations are made linked by the theme of love. There are disjointed phrases and single word sentences, for example, ‘Not a red rose or satin heart’ and ‘Here’.        Duffy depends on the ‘Not a…’ lines as she then goes on to say what has been received and how they are associated with love and her feelings.  These lines also help to give a sense of patterning and give the poem order.

        The images that Carol Ann Duffy uses are of an onion both as the real present and as the metaphor, which the poem is based upon.  The physical resemblance is to a moon, as a moon is associated with love songs, love and is bright and beautiful.  In this poem especially Duffy uses sensory language to a great extent.  The scent of an onion can make you cry as love does in cases of happiness and sadness.  Love can also be distorted and an onion can make one’s reflection twist.  The taste of onion provides a metaphor of a kiss, which “will stay”.  I felt that the poem did not have a clear conclusion however the end implicates a threat, as a kitchen knife may become a weapon for a jealous lover.  We can tell this from: 'Lethal

                Its scent will cling to your fingers

                Cling to your knife.'                

        The poem takes Duffy’s experience or understanding of love, desire and betrayal and rephrases them.  It changes the whole concept of love and romance and challenges the traditional image.  In this poem Duffy compares the love of Valentine to an onion.  She challenges the traditional poems found in Valentine cards by changing people perception completely.  The poem is not a sweet loving one but one that makes one think about love and what it should be like.  It challenges the reader in thinking about what love should be like.  

        The title of the poem Valentine can be misleading.  At a first glance the reader thinks that the poem is about a romantic love story, however Duffy write about pessimistic love.  The reader then goes on to feel that the poet has been hurt in a previous relationship.

        A positive statement begins the poem- ‘Not a red rose or a satin heart’. She states that a traditional Valentine present has not been given.  Some of the letters produce a hard sound (particularly the consonants); thus a sense of harshness is felt.

        The whole poem is founded upon a gift.  Duffy gives the description of the gift, ‘I give...’ the offering of a gift ‘Here.’ and the moment of giving it to someone ‘Take it.’  However there is an irony in the set up of ‘love’ being offered; as people tend to fall in love with or without intending to do so, it is not something that can be accepted or refused, it just happens.  

The base of the poem is found from the gift offered.  

        ‘I give you an onion’. There is a deliberate frankness and shock in the naming of the gift. The reader is intended to be surprised.  The onion symbolises love and the knowledge of what love is.  It is a mixture of pain and pleasure however it is intense and unavoidable.  

‘It is a moon wrapped in brown paper’ gives us the sense of a luminous white onion wrapped in a tedious brown paper; therefore it initially provides the reader with a visual image.  However the comparison is richer than this, as love promises both romantic realities promised by modern poems. We never really understand what a person is really thinking. Duffy uses a metaphor to express this idea. ‘I give you an onion, it is moon wrapped in brown paper,’ we feel mystery as one can never know what to expect under the skin of an onion or a person ‘It promises light, like the careful undressing of love.’ A feeling of sensuality is created with the use of the repetition of the ‘l’ sound.  

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‘Like the careful undressing of love’, this and the line before (in the poem) have some normal delicacy in the way of romance.  It shows the association of love with light.  In this line it is apparent that Duffy is saying that love is always present as both an emotional and physical experience.  The delicacy will develop and change in the third stanza, as the ‘careful undressing’ will have become a ‘fierce kiss’.

        In the second verse Duffy uses of the word ‘Here’ to make the reader feel that the poet is in control.  As it is a one word ...

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