This week, I’ve been reading feminine gospels by Carol Ann Duffy. These poems explore the lives of women in various context and roles, often as archetypes that shift. Is it Eve, or…? The poem “Beautiful” moves from Helen of Troy to Cleopatra to Marilyn Monroe–and I don’t know who the last person is, if it’s someone specific (maybe you can tell me).
Some poems spin off into the surreal, including “The Diet,” “The Woman Who Shops,” and “Work,” start with the everyday and push it beyond, building a new physical reality on the emotional experience.
The shifts can keep the reader delightfully unbalanced. The language is musical, with an abundance of internal rhyme–but all that beauty masks the edge that is creeping behind it, ready to pounce.
One of my favorite poems in the book is “The Laughter of Stafford Girls’ High”–and I’ll admit I was daunted at first by its length–19 pages. But it quickly became addictive. (I did want to find out more about Miss Barrett–did I miss that?).
Here’s another poem from the book:
But what if, in the clammy soil, her limbs
grew warmer, shifted, stirred, kicked off
the covering of earth, the drowsing corms,
the sly worms, what if her arms reached out
to grab the stone, the grooves of her dates
under her thumb, and pulled her up? I wish.
Her bare feet walk along the gravel path
between the graves, her shroud like washing
blown onto the grass, the petals of her wreath
kissed for a bride. Nobody died. Nobody
wept. Nobody slept who couldn’t be woken
by the light. If I can only push open this heavy door
she’ll be standing there in the sun, dirty, tired,
wondering why do I shout, why do I run.