Friday, 12 November 2010

Carol Ann Duffy - Litany

Some vocabulary for you.

Synaesthesia - A confusion of senses; e.g. "Don't look at me in that tone of voice" or "This porridge tastes a funny colour". Usually used to convey sensory particularities.

Faux pas - a social gaffe.

Gaffe - A mistake.

Furore - An uproar.

Juxtapose - to set two ideas in relation to one another.

Verbatim - word for word.

I still can't remeber the Greek term for using a noun as a verb and it is slowly driving me mad. I'll probably be at home all weekend, my arms wrapped around my knees, rocking back and forth and muttering, "A nouns as a verb... A noun as a verb..."

Notes on the poem:

Key Ideas

This is a reflection on a childhood, and a critique of the veneered society of the 1960s. It reveals the early sensual development of the poet, and also her first desire to break social rules. This is perhaps relevant when we learn of her sexuality and later life.

The poem makes use of lists, reflecting the idea of a litany, and the religious notion is reinforced with the monotone repetition of the status symbols of comfortable, middle class life. Later we are also listed the subjects which are "off-limits" in the perfect domestic environment of the 60s home, and casts notions of shame (with its religious connotations) onto the natural inquisitiveness of a child.

Contrasting with the polished domestic ideas which are so fraught with tension and social "codes" are the two lines dealing with the natural world, in which wasps are systematically killed and butterflies quiver nervously; perhaps this can be used to juxtapose the natural impulses with the sterile atmosphere of home.

The meter is used to reflect the rigid social setting, and confine the text as the poet felt hemmed in and confined as a child.

Duffy as an adult reflecting is able to identify the superficial nature of her parents' home, and is clearly critical of it; nonethless, the rigid ideas are, like a religious litany, deeply embedded in her memory, as shown in her ability to remember verbatim her mother's reaction of shame to her childish errors in front of her friends.

She finishes with a bitter representation of that childhood in a powerful short image. The taste of soap at once showing her punishment for swearing, while suggesting the power of the "clean" over her own "natural" behaviour.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Have you got anymore specific points on the structure of the poem please? Thanks!