Poem of the Month: Carol Ann Duffy

Welcome to the second Poem of the Month!

This month, December 2019, we will look at Carol Ann Duffy!

Carol Ann Duffy’s birthday is on 23rd December! She was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1955.

To celebrate her birthday, the second poem of the month will feature one of her poems.

Before that let us get to know her a little bit more, shall we?

Carol Ann Duffy is an acclaimed poet and playwright. She also writes picture books for children. She was the first female Poet Laureate of Great Britain. She held the position from 2009 to 2019! She has written several unique poetry collections such as Standing Female Nudes (1985), The World’s Wife (1999) and The Bees (2011). Check out my review of The Bees.


So now coming to the poem itself! My favourite collection by Duffy is The World’s Wife. It is a collection of poems that give voice to the female characters from historical, literary or mythical fields that have been overshadowed by their male counterparts. So the poems narrate the point of views of varying Western female figures from Mrs. Freud to Mrs. Faust, from Mrs Sisyphus to Demeter, from Mrs. Aesop to Little Red Hiding Hood and many many more. The poems, therefore, form part of a feminist revisionist mythology that is used here to reclaim female voices and experiences.

While it is extremely difficult to choose one from this collection because all of the them are so witty and so satirical! So here is one short, succinct one that will make you laugh!

Mrs. Darwin
7 April 1852
Went to the Zoo.
I said to Him—
Something about that Chimpanzee over there reminds me of you.

This poem is such a sing song one with simple rhymes of two, zoo and you.
The opening date is not significant but it is important to know that Darwin’s evolution theories were published in 1859. Perhaps, then, the poem is then trying to hint that it was Mrs. Darwin’s comparison that actually was behind Mr. Darwin’s ground breaking theories. In just four lines, Duffy has remarked upon the females behind scientific discoveries that are often ignored simply because of their gender!

Another interesting aspect is the way Charles Darwin is referred to here as “Him.” It is with a capital, H, almost giving him the role of God. Perhaps he saw himself as God for his scientific thoughts. It could also be that Duffy is trying to point at the irony of this name as Darwin’s theories were itself contradictory to the Church’s idea of human creation. Hence his theories continued to be disapproved of well into the 20th century.

If you like this poem, you should definitely read her other poems. Equally hilarious are poems such as Mrs. Freud, where she takes a dig at Freud’s sexist idea of penis envy and completely invalidates it; Mrs. Aesop who is tired of Aesop’s moralising and lack of sexual prowess, and Mrs. Icarus who declares in the most British way possible that her husband was an absolute “pillock.” Another of my favourites is Mrs. Tiresias which plays on the idea of his gender fluidity and also takes jibes at very modern feminist issues of mansplaining along with menstrual and maternity leave.

You can read her other poems from The World’s Wife, here.

Get ready to get on a fun, satirical, candid and bold sexual expressions of these poems!
Fair Warning: Before reading the poems, you may have to brush up on your knowledge of the male counterparts, their deeds and what they are known for to fully understand the poems.


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One thought on “Poem of the Month: Carol Ann Duffy

  1. Pingback: Poem of the Month: Agha Shahid Ali | The Book Cafe!

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