CP Duffy poems

The Poetry of Carol Ann Duffy
“Shooting Stars”
“In Mrs. Tilscher’s Class”
“Before You Were Mine”
“Education for Leisure”
Like music, each poem has melody (i.e., sound devices). A poet chooses words for their sound, as well as
for their meaning. Rhythm, of course, is a kind of sound device based upon pattern. Euphony (literally
“good sound”) and cacophony (literally “bad sound”) contribute to producing melody, or a musical
quality in verse.
One of the principle tools of melody is rhyme — that is where two words have the same sound on their
last accented vowel preceded by different consonants, such as:
Single (Masculine) Rhyme dame, same love, dove
Double (Feminine) Rhyme napping, tapping weather, heather
Triple Rhyme mournfully, scornfully victorious, glorious
Other rhyming terms include:
 Sight (Eye) Rhyme in which two words look alike but don’t sound alike, such as “LOVE” and
 Slant (Imperfect) Rhyme in which two words are nearly rhymed but have a
slight variation in vowel sound, such as “LAKE” and “FATE.” NOTE: Sometimes what
is now a sight rhyme was once a true rhyme, but pronunciation changes have occurred,
such as “AGAIN” and “RAIN.”
 Identical Rhyme (Rime Riche) in which two words are spelled differently but
have the same pronunciation (also called homonyms), such as “TWO” and “TOO” or
“RITE” and “RIGHT.”
 End Rhyme in which the rhyming words occur at the ends of lines of poetry.
 Internal Rhyme in which the rhyme occurs inside a line, such as –
“Let’s BEAT the HEAT.”
Besides rhyme, poets also use other sound effects:
Alliteration is the repetition of similar speech sounds in closely associated words or syllables.
There are three kinds of alliteration:
 Consonantal Alliteration Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
 Vowel Alliteration Apt alliteration’s artful aid is often an occasional ornament in prose.
 Internal Alliteration The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.
Assonance is the repetition of identical vowel sounds in syllables that have different consonant
sounds such as “LAKE” and “FAKE” or “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan” (which repeats only vowel
Consonance is the repetition of identical consonant sounds in syllables that have different vowel
sounds, such as “BILL” and “BALL” or “BORN” and “BURN.”
Onomatopoeia is the use of words which sound like their meanings, such as “HISS,” “
MURMUR,” “BUZZ,” and so on.
Pauses do not usually figure significantly in scansion, but they do affect the rhythm of a line,
just as they affect the rhythm of music. There are three types of pauses:
End-stopped is a pause at the end of a line.
Caesura is a pause that occurs within a line.
Enjambment is a line that “runs over” to the next line without a pause.
Each poem also uses imagery, which is produced by figures of speech. These take many forms, but all are
rhetorical methods that affect the literal meaning of words. Let’s start by looking at single words that
appear synonymous:
dumb, stupid, slow, uneducated, ignorant, obtuse, dense
smart, clever, shrewd, brilliant, intelligent, with-it, cagey
skinny, slender, thin, emaciated, scrawny, lithe, lean, underweight
fat, chubby, plump, corpulent, pudgy, junoesque, zaftig. overweight
home, house, shack, bungalow, mansion, crib, pad, hearth, quarters
Even though the denotation (literal meaning) of the words appears synonymous, the connotation
(figurative meaning) is different. Figures of speech work the same way.
Imagery is the use of figures of speech which are concrete — it always refers to a sensory experience.
The sun perceived by the senses is concrete; the enlightenment associated with it is abstract (perceived by
the intellect, not the senses). Thus, we have the image of a peacock which serves as the vehicle of the
comparison. Its theme or meaning may be something abstract like vanity or beauty, but the image must
be concrete. Generally speaking, there are three kinds of figures of speech: comparisons, substitutions,
and ambiguities.
A comparison of two things, alike in certain aspects – a simile is an expressed
analogy; a metaphor is an implied one.
Two unlike things compared directly, implying several similar qualities, such
as “The river is a snake which coils on itself .”
Two unlike things compared using “like” or “as,” implying only one similar
quality, such as “The man paced like a hungry lion.”
Giving human qualities to inanimate objects or non-human creatures, such as
“The trees danced in the breeze.”
Addressing some abstract object as if it were animate, such as “O world! Tell
me thy pain!” Thus, it is a kind of personification.
Referring metaphorically to persons, places or things from history or previous
literature, with which the reader is expected to have enough familiarity to
make extended associations, such as “The new kid is as mean as Grendel and
twice as ugly” or “He must think he’s some kind of Superman.”
A form of extended metaphor in which objects, persons, and actions in a
narrative are equated with meanings that lie outside the narrative itself, such
as Everyman. Special kinds of allegories include the fable and the parable.
The use of one object to represent or suggest another object or an idea. Thus, a
rose might be used to symbolize the loved one or love in general, depending on
the context.
Substitution of one word for another closely related word, such as “The pot’s
boiling” or “The White House announced.”
Substitution of part for the whole, such as “All hands on deck.”
Substitution of one sensory response for another (or the concurrent
stimulation of several senses), such as “a blue note” or “cool green” or “The
blind man turned his face to feel the sun.”
Saying more than is true, an over-exaggeration, such as “He wore his fingers
to the bone.”
Saying less than is true, an under-exaggeration, such as “The reports of my
death have been exaggerated.”
Saying the opposite to what is true, such as “War is kind.”
Using contrasts for an accumulative effect, such as “Man proposes; God
An antithesis that brings together two sharply contradictory terms, such as
“wise fool,” “little big man,” “eloquent silence,” and “loving hate.”
A statement which while seemingly contradictory or absurd may actually be
well-founded or true; a “logic twist,” such as “Everything I say is a lie.”
A play on words based on the similarity of sound between two words with
different meanings, such as “She offered her honor; he honored her offer; and
all night long he was on her and off her.”
And finally, every poem has form. A poet can arrange his poem so that you will read it as he wants you to
read it to get its sound, rhythm, and emphasis. The length of lines and the location of pauses affect the
speed at which you read his poem. In modern free verse the very typographical arrangement of words in
lines produces emphasis, just as regular rhythm and rhyme produce emphasis in regular verse.
There is such a vast difference in the following arrangements of words that the very meaning of the
words is changed:
Star, if you are a love compassionate, you will walk
with us this year. We face a glacial distance who are
here huddled at your feet. —Burford
If you are
A love compassionate,
You will walk with us this year.
We face a glacial distance who are here
At your feet.
Shooting Stars
After I no longer speak they break our fingers
to salvage my wedding ring. Rebecca Rachel Ruth
Aaron Emmanuel David, stars on all our brows
beneath the gaze of men with guns. Mourn for the daughters,
upright as statues, brave. You would not look at me.
You waited for the bullet. Fell. I say, Remember.
Remember these appalling days which make the world
Forever bad. One saw I was alive. Loosened
his belt. My bowels opened in a ragged gape of fear.
Between the gap of corpses I could see a child.
The soldiers laughed. Only a matter of days separate
this from acts of torture now. They shot her in the eye.
How would you prepare to die, on a perfect April evening
with young men gossiping and smoking by the graves?
My bare feet felt the earth and urine trickled
Down my legs until I heard the click. Not yet. A trick.
After immense suffering someone takes tea on the lawn.
After the terrible moans a boy washes his uniform.
After the history lesson children run to their toys the world
turns in its sleep the spades shovel soil Sara Ezra…
Sister, if seas part us, do you not consider me?
Tell them I sang the ancient psalms at dusk
inside the wire and strong men wept. Turn thee
unto me with mercy, for I am desolate and lost.
Type of Poetry
Narrative Poetry
A nondramatic poem which tells a story or
presents a narrative, whether simple or
complex, long or short.
Specific Forms
Ballad, epic, metrical romance
Dramatic Poetry
Poetry that employs dramatic form or
dramatic techniques as a means of
achieving poetic ends.
verse drama, dramatic monologue,
verse dialogue
Lyric Poetry
A brief subjective poem marked by
imagination, melody, and emotion, but
strict definition is impossible.
dirge, epithalamion, elegy,
epigram, epitaph, hymn, sonnet,
song, light verse, ode, pastoral,
In Mrs. Tilscher’s Class
You could travel up the Blue Nile
with your finger, tracing the route
while Mrs Tilscher chanted the scenery.
”Tana. Ethiopia. Khartoum. Aswan.”
That for an hour,
then a skittle of milk
and the chalky Pyramids rubbed into dust.
A window opened with a long pole.
The laugh of a bell swung by a running child.
This was better than home. Enthralling books.
The classroom glowed like a sweetshop.
Sugar paper. Coloured shapes. Brady and Hindley
faded, like the faint, uneasy smudge of a mistake.
Mrs. Tilscher loved you. Some mornings, you found
she'd left a gold star by your name.
The scent of a pencil slowly, carefully, shaved.
A xylophone's nonsense heard from another form.
Over the Easter term the inky tadpoles changed
from commas into exclamation marks. Three frogs
hopped in the playground, freed by a dunce
followed by a line of kids, jumping and croaking
away from the lunch queue. A rough boy
told you how you were born. You kicked him, but stared
at your parents, appalled, when you got back
That feverish July, the air tasted of electricity.
A tangible alarm made you always untidy, hot,
fractious under the heavy, sexy sky. You asked her
how you were born and Mrs. Tilscher smiled
then turned away. Reports were handed out.
You ran through the gates, impatient to be grown
the sky split open into a thunderstorm.
Before You Were Mine
I’m ten years away from the corner you laugh on
With your pals, Maggie McGeeney and Jean Duff.
the three of you bend from the waist, holding
each other, or your knees, and shriek at the pavement.
Your polka-dot dress blows round your legs. Marilyn.
I’m not here yet. The thought of me doesn’t occur
In the ballroom with the thousand eyes, the fizzy, movie tomorrows
the right walk home could bring. I knew you would dance
like that. Before you were mine, your Ma stands at the close
with a hiding for the late one. You reckon it’s worth it.
The decade ahead of my loud, possessive yell was the best one, eh?
I remember my hands in those high-heeled red shoes, relics,
and now your ghost clatters toward me over George Square
till I see you, clear as scent, under the tree,
with its lights, and whose small bites on your neck, sweetheart?
Cha cha cha! You’d teach me the steps on the way home from Mass,
stamping stars from the wrong pavement. Even then
I wanted the bold girl winking in Portobello, somewhere
in Scotland, before I was born. That glamorous love lasts
where you sparkle and waltz and laugh before you were mine.
The most unusual thing I ever stole? A snowman.
Midnight. He looked magnificent; a tall, white mute
beneath the winter moon. I wanted him, a mate
with a mind as cold as the slice of ice
within my own brain. I started with the head.
Better off dead than giving in, not taking
what you want. He weighed a ton; his torso,
frozen stiff, hugged to my chest, a fierce chill
piercing my gut. Part of the thrill was knowing
that children would cry in the morning. Life’s tough.
Sometimes I steal things I don’t need. I joy-ride cars
to nowhere, break into houses just to have a look.
I’m a mucky ghost, leave a mess, maybe pinch a camera.
I watch my gloved hand twisting the doorknob.
A stranger’s bedroom. Mirrors. I sigh like this—Aah.
It took some time. Reassembled in the yard,
he didn’t look the same. I took a run
and booted him. Again. Again. My breath ripped out
in rags. It seemed daft now. Then I was standing
alone among lumps of snow, sick of the world.
Boredom. Mostly I am so bored I could eat myself.
One time, I stole a guitar and thought I might
learn to play. I nicked a bust of Shakespeare once,
flogged it, but the snowman was the strangest.
You don’t understand a word I’m saying, do you?
Education for Leisure
Today I am going to kill something. Anything.
I have had enough of being ignored and today
I am going to play God. It is an ordinary day,
a sort of grey with boredom stirring in the streets.
I squash a fly against the window with my thumb.
We did that at school. Shakespeare. It was in
another language and now the fly is in another language.
I breathe out talent on the glass to write my name.
I am a genius. I could be anything at all, with half
the chance. But today I am going to change the world.
Something's world. The cat avoids me. The cat
knows I am a genius, and has hidden itself.
I pour the goldfish down the bog. I pull the chain.
I see that it is good. The budgie is panicking.
Once a fortnight, I walk the two miles into town
For signing on. They don't appreciate my autograph.
There is nothing left to kill. I dial the radio
and tell the man he's talking to a superstar.
He cuts me off. I get our bread-knife and go out.
The pavements glitter suddenly. I touch your arm.
I’d done it before
(and doubtless I’ll do it again,
sooner or later)
woke up with a head on the pillow beside me – whose? –
what did it matter?
Good-looking, of course, dark hair, rather matted;
the reddish beard several shades lighter;
with very deep lines around the eyes,
from pain, I’d guess, maybe laughter;
and a beautiful crimson mouth that obviously knew
how to flatter…
which I kissed…
Colder than pewter.
Strange. What was his name? Peter?
Simon? Andrew? John? I knew I’d feel better
for tea, dry toast, no butter,
so rang for the maid.
And, indeed, her innocent clatter
of cups and plates,
her clearing of clutter,
her regional patter,
were just what I needed –
hungover and wrecked as I was from a night on the batter.
Never again!
I needed to clean up my act,
get fitter,
cut out the booze and the fags and the sex.
Yes. And as for the latter,
it was time to turf out the blighter,
the beater or biter,
who’d come like a lamb to the slaughter
to Salome’s bed.
In the mirror, I saw my eyes glitter.
I flung back the sticky red sheets,
and there, like I said – and ain’t life a bitch –
was his head on a platter.