guernseyliteraryfestival

It's not just a book thing!

Carol Ann Duffy: an extraordinary poet

One person I’m particularly excited about joining us at the Festival is feisty feminist Carol Ann Duffy.  She is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University, and was appointed Britain’s Poet Laureate in May 2009. She is the first woman, first Scot, and the first openly gay person to hold the position. She reportedly stated on Woman’s Hour that she agreed to take the job ‘purely because they hadn’t had a woman’. Her poems address issues such as oppression, gender and violence.

Carol Ann Duffy © Michael Woods

I suppose the main reason I’m looking forward to her visit is that I’m currently studying her poetry at school. It seemed appropriate for me to write this post as I have an essay due in first day back about her poem The Grammar of Light, which isn’t a bad thing because I really like the poem. Interestingly, it interlinks the concept of light with language.

Duffy uses timeframes to separate each stanza. It begins with the night or early hours of the morning, where there is very little light. ‘Even barely enough light to find a mouth, and bless both with a meaningless O.’ At first I wasn’t entirely sure what this meant, but it’s a description of two people trying to kiss in the dark. Duffy then explores the different times of day: the world waking up, rain in the evening and a romantic candlelit dinner. I like the last line: ‘The flare of another match. The way everything dies’ because it suggests an affair or a new love; the light represents the start of something new.

One of my favourite poems by Carol Ann Duffy is Valentine – rather than being a romantic poem, as you would probably imagine it to be, it uses an onion to represent the effect love has on us. To start with, it seems to be positive and passionate. ‘It promises light, like the careful undressing of love.’ Then it moves on to become quite dark, and explores the negative side of love, the pain it can cause. ‘It will blind you with tears, like a lover. It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief.’

I like the poem because it’s quirky and it does contain snippets of humour. ‘Not a cute card or kissogram, I give you an onion.’ I imagine this is Duffy’s revenge on an ex – she refers to the onion as being ‘lethal’ so this would imply she has some loathing towards the person she’s sending it to. An onion doesn’t quite say ‘I love you’ like a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers.

So, I’ll definitely be grabbing a seat in September to listen to the extraordinary works of Carol Anne Duffy, and I recommend that you all try and get in there too – my English teacher has told our class she’ll be taking a register! That reminds me, I should really do that essay.

Sophie

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This entry was posted on August 4, 2012 by and tagged , , , .
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