Friday, 7 August 2015

Ten Reasons Why You Might Enjoy The World’s Wife - A personal view by Roger Stevens




The World’s Wife (Picador 1999) was Carol Ann Duffy’s first themed collection of poems, dealing with sexism, equality, bereavement and birth. The collection looks at important events and history – from a female perspective and often in a controversial way. She tells the wives’ stories.
1 If you are new to the poems of Carol Ann Duffy I would suggest this book as a good place to start, to find out why she is such a loved and respected poet; or if you are already familiar with her work – come here to rediscover her or just delight, once again, in these wonderful narratives.
2 To enjoy her wit and humour. Her poem Frau Freud could almost have been written by Monty Python, or appeared in Viz, with its exhausting list of names for the male member. And in Mrs Darwin…

Went to the zoo/ I said to Him/
Something about that chimpanzee reminds me of you.
3 To enjoy the exactness and rightness of her phrases.
In The Devil’s Wife - A faint sneer of thunder… In Mrs Quasimodo - the murdered music of the bells… and in Mrs Aesop – that the bird in his hand shat on his sleeve.
4 To discover the real reason why Delilah cut Samson’s hair. An act of love and kindness.
5 To spare a thought for the dilemma of Mrs Midas. The need to put a chair against her door, petrified…
4 Her cunning, clever and sometimes unexpected use of rhyme. As Mrs Winkle returns home with a pastel of Niagara to find Rip Van Winkle rattling a bottle of Viagra
5 Her poetry is honest. Even brutal. If she has something to say, she doesn’t hold back, as in the explicit Mrs Quasimodo.
When the others left,
He fucked me underneath the gaping, stricken bells
until I wept


6 For the rhythm of her lines, the rise and fall, the cadences, that propel her tales, the dash, the joie de vivre.
7 Carol Ann Duffy’s feminism underpins this collection. She has said that in order to find the truth, the female character has to be dominant. In the opening poem, Little Red Cap, she found that the original fairy tale, upon which this is based, was an example of feminism in both fairy tale and English literature. She then found a personal connection within the original story line to help form the dominant female character.
You might ask why. Here’s why. Poetry.
The wolf, I knew, would lead me deep into the woods,
away from home, to a dark tangled thorny place
lit by the eyes of owls.
8 The way she uses these tales to highlight men’s treatment of women. In Pygmalion’s Bride, for example, the tale of a Cypriot sculptor who carved a woman out of ivory, she cleverly finds a modern equivalent. The sort of man that many women know too well.
9 And who wouldn’t want to read about a female Pope…
10 Or a song about Elvis’s Twin Sister who lives in a convent…
I think of it
as Graceland here,
a land of grace
…and prays for the immortal soul of rock and roll.






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