Carol Ann Duffy

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Analysis by theme – Carol Ann Duffy


Notes from “Originally”

Repeatedly returns to the metaphor of childhood as a “country” – echoes of
L.P. Hartley’s “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. Notion of past being intimately associated with place, and that adulthood is a journey away from it.

“All childhood is an emigration.”/ “I want our own country”. Fear of being in an alien place as a child reflected in the alienation of adult life.

“I lost a river, culture, speech, sense of first space and the right place” – Duffy reflects on moving house as a child, and the way she lost her first senses of the world as the became accustomed to somewhere new.

“I stared at the eyes of a blind toy,
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The mistakes have not made him circumspect or reflective, he has just become increasingly frenzied. The headlines that round off this stanza are demonstrations of the use of sex to sell papers. They refer to a “PANTIE ROMP” and a “RENT BOY”. Later, we are told of other stories featuring “DIPLOMAT IN BED”, “BONKING” and a politician who is “A NIGHTCLUB TART”.

The arrogance of the narrator seems unbearable when he claims that his work makes him “a sort of poet/ for our times”. This betrays a lack of understanding of what poetry is. He laments that it is becoming harder to shock his audience and must become increasingly lurid. He wishes to have “been around when the Titanic sank” purely to write the headlines. He is bereft of compassion and entirely self-serving.

The narrator continues his idea of being a “poet” by confessing he wishes that “kids will know my headlines off by heart”, as though they were poems taught in schools. Finally, he reflects on “the poems of the decade”: “Stuff ‘em!” and “Gotcha!” In the 1980s these were defining headlines for key cultural moments, but as per the hack’s demand, they have been reduced entirely. Ironically, these have indeed become so well known that few people, certainly of that generation, do not know what they are about. To some extent, by writing the poem, Duffy is complicit in perpetuating them in the popular memory.

The final line works as a pun, combining the
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