CAROL ANN DUFFY (Glasgow, 1955)
Studied philosophy at the University of Liverpool
became a full-time writer
first full-length collection: Standing Female Nude (1985)
Poet Laureate, 2009 (the first female poet laureate in England)
Addresses complex philosophical issues about the function of language and the construction of
the self, deals with a wide range of issues about the effects of sexism, racism, immigration,
domestic violence, social disaffection, the complexities of love.
1. Anxieties about the relationship of the self to the world
identity construction: Scottish poet
Scottish woman poet
the responsibility of the poet is
to understand and explain the world in social and political terms
an interest in a reclamation of the self through memory, a desire to reconstruct that
“Poets don‟t have solutions, poets are recording human experience.” (Interview,
2. Anxieties about the validity of communication
to problematize notions of truth
desire to mediate an „authentic‟ experience while searching for new ways in which to
situated at the centre of postmodern concerns about the authority and reliability of
draws attention to the nature of language
language is not a series of transparent signs through which reality is perceived but a
structuring and differentiating system which constructs reality by reflecting the
concerns of the social order which produced it
poems are fictional reconstructions of reality which continually draw attention to their
the task of the writer and the reader is to deconstruct linguistic signs in order to expose
the ideological nature of their significations
CLICHÉS offer a double way of telling: it is both failure and truth
an exploration of the relationship between language and experience always
dramatizes a gap between signifier and signified, between what is about to
be said, and what is then said
3. Anxieties the disturbance of gender roles
offers critiques of gender roles
explores issues of gender, identity, sexuality, alienation, desire and loss
refusal to conform to any stereotypical notion of feminity
moving beyond a straightforwardly feminist poetry
“I don‟t mind being called a feminist poet, but I wouldn‟t mind if I wasn‟t. I think the
concerns of art go beyond that. I think as long as the work is read it doesn‟t really matter
what the cover is. I have never in my life sat down and thought »I will write a feminist
poem«.” (Interview, 1988)
persona poems, reconstituted the monologue for feminist ends
double-voiced quality, an awareness of identity and alterity runs through her poems
the poems seem in dialogues with themselves
two perspectives at once: explicitly that of the speaker and implicitly that of the poet
bringing the poet‟s self into the public world while denying responsibility, masking
destabilizing the relationship between the poet and the poem‟s speaking voice
the „I‟ of the monologue exhibits an overdetermined and objectified selfhood
symptomatic of anxieties about claiming any kind of subject position
the monologue is a method of disclaiming or dislocating oneself from a subject position
DRAMATIC MONOLOGUE/WOMAN IDENTITY
sense of the everyday artificiality of the construction of women‟s role
The World’s Wife (1999)
revises fairy tale, history and myth, and remakes it into contemporary feminist
fables (// Angela Carter‟s The Bloody Chamber, 1979)
Little Red Cap, Mrs Midas, Mrs Tiresias, Mrs Faust, Anne Hathaway, Queen
Wear dark glasses in the rain. Paranoia for lunch; too much
Regard what was unhurt to drink, as a hand on your thigh
as though through a bruise. tilts the restaurant. You know all about love,
Guilt. A sick, green tint. don't you. Turn on your beautiful eyes
New gloves, money tucked in the palms, for a stranger who's dynamite in bed, again
the handshake crackles. Hands and again; a slow replay in the kitchen
can do many things. Phone. where the slicing of innocent onions
Open the wine. Wash themselves. Now scalds you to tears. Then, selfish autobiographical
you are naked under your clothes all day,
slim with deceit. Only the once in a marital bed, the tarnished spoon of your body
brings you alone to your knees, stirring betrayal, your heart over-ripe at the core.
miming, more, more, older and sadder, You're an expert, darling; your flowers
dumb and explicit on nobody's birthday.
creative. Suck a lie with a hole in it
on the way home from a lethal, thrilling night So write the script – illness and debt,
up against a wall, faster. Language a ring thrown away in a garden
unpeels a lost cry. You're a bastard. no moon can heal, your own words
commuting to bile in your mouth, terror -
Do it do it do it. Sweet darkness
in the afternoon; a voice in your ear and all for the same thing twice. And all
telling you how you are wanted, for the same thing twice. You did it.
which way, now. A telltale clock What. Didn't you. Fuck. Fuck. No. That was
the wrong verb. This is only an abstract noun.
wiping the hours from its face, your face
on a white sheet, gasping, radiant, yes. (from Mean Time, 19939
Pay for it in cash, fiction, cab-fares back
to the life which crumbles like a wedding-cake.
SIT AS PEACE
When they gave you them to shell and you sat
on the back-doorstep, opening the small green envelopes
with your thumb, minding the queues of peas, you were
sitting at peace. Sit at peace, sit at peace, all summer.
When Muriel Purdy, embryonic cop, thwacked the back
of your knees with a bamboo-cane, mouth open, soundless
in a cave of pain, you ran to your house,
a greeting wean, to be kept in and told once again.
Nip was a dog. Fluff was a cat. They sat at peace
on a coloured-in mat, so why couldn‟t you? Sometimes
your questions were stray snipes over no-man‟s land,
bringing sharp hands and the order you had to obey. Sit –
At – Peace! Jigsaws you couldn‟t do or dull stamps
didn‟t want to collect arrived with the frost.
You would rather stand with your nose to the window, clouding
the strange blue view with your restless breath.
But the day you fell from the Parachute Tree, they came
from nowhere running, carried you in to a quiet room
you were glad of. A long silent afternoon, dreamlike.
A voice saying peace, sit at peace, sit at peace.
(from The Other Country, 1990)
I had grieved. I had wept for a night and a day Then he was gone. Then he was legend, language;
over my loss, ripped the cloth I was married in my arm on the arm of the schoolteacher-the shock
from my breasts, howled, shrieked, clawed of a man's strength under the sleeve of his coat-
at the burial stones until my hands bled, retched along the hedgerows. But I was faithful
his name over and over again, dead, dead. for as long as it took. Until he was memory.
Gone home. Gutted the place. Slept in a single cot, So I could stand that evening in the field
widow, one empty glove, white femur in a shawl of fine air, healed, able
in the dust, half. Stuffed dark suits to watch the edge of the moon occur to the sky
into black bags, shuffled in a dead man's shoes, and a hare thump from a hedge; then notice
noosed the double knot of a tie around my bare neck, the village men running towards me, shouting,
gaunt nun in the mirror, touching herself. I learnt behind them the women and children, barking dogs,
the Stations of Bereavement, the icon of my face and I knew. I knew by the sly light
in each bleak frame; but all those months on the blacksmith's face, the shrill eyes
he was going away from me, dwindling of the barmaid, the sudden hands bearing me
to the shrunk size of a snapshot, going, into the hot tang of the crowd parting before me.
going. Till his name was no longer a certain spell He lived. I saw the horror on his face.
for his face. The last hair on his head I heard his mother's crazy song. I breathed
floated out from a book. His scent went from the his stench; my bridegroom in his rotting shroud,
house. moist and dishevelled from the grave's slack chew,
The will was read. See, he was vanishing croaking his cuckold name, disinherited, out of his
to the small zero held by the gold of my ring. time.
(from The World’s Wife, 1999)