Carol Ann Duffy is the poet Laureate. You all know that. But did you know this lesser known fact about her Highness of Poetry Town….. she’s a pretty scary wordy woman! Oh you already knew that too? Darn. Ok, how about this one: she loves Simon Armitage and they have a lovechild.*
A classic poem from Ms Duffy is Stealing.
Disaffected youth (seen here without his hoodie)
goes around at midnight breaking into people’s houses
but doesn’t take the usual stuff like the TV and the XBox (although he does sometimes ‘pinch a camera’)
Instead he breaks in ‘just to have a look’ and he tells us ‘I joyride cars to nowhere’.
But, he tells us, the most unusual thing he’s ever stolen is, not a camera (that wouldn’t make a good poem would it?), but a snowman.
The reason, he says, is because he gets a thrill from ‘knowing that children would cry in the morning’
He kicked the snowman in anyway. Little Sod.
Anti Social behaviour / violence (towards Snowmen)
Carol Ann Duffy read about someone stealing a snowman in a local newspaper. This riveting piece of information inspired her so much that she just HAD to write a poem about it. Thanks Carol Ann Duffy.
In this poem Carol Ann Duffy will no doubt be making a comment about the disaffected youth which emerged from the Thatcher government in the 70s and 80s (similar to our modern day ‘broken’ society) . There weren’t a lot of jobs available for people when they left school so young people started to think ‘well what’s the point in getting an education then?’. (This links quite nicely to Duffy’s controversial poem ‘Education for Leisure’). Something to think about is: why would someone steal a snowman just to make children cry and then destroy the snowman anyway? Weirdo.
There are several interesting images which dominate this poem:
The persona (ie; it’s not Carol Ann Duffy who stole the snowman ((that what she wants to make out anyway)) but she’s writing from the perspective of that person – the persona) of the poem identifies with the snowman:
a mind as cold as the slice of ice within my own brain
So it’s interesting to look at how the persona describes the snowman (any characteristics he gives to the snowman are likely to be characteristics which he associates with himself – as if looking at the snowman is like looking in a mirror, which incidentally, links to later in the poem when he does actually look in a mirror). In the above quote the simile as cold as the slice of ice within my own brain tells us that the narrator sees himself as a cold person.
He says the snowman is a
Tall, white mute
so we can assume that the persona, by calling the snowman a ‘mute’ also thinks of himself this way; in other words he is silent, he has no voice, nobody listens to him, nobody hears him…
Already, the reader can start to empathise with the narrator (unless of course you are as cold hearted as he is).
And later in the poem a similar image is created when the narrator describes himself as:
A mucky ghost
Ghost of a kid’s imagination = white. Snowman = white. There’s your link.
A ghost also is a bit like a mute, something which is there but not heard, seen, felt. How can we interpret the narrator’s feelings about himself from these descriptions?
This one word sentence is very powerful. What is the narrator doing out at midnight? Why is he not at home in bed like most people are at that time? Why aren’t his parents concerned about where he is?
This one word sentence allows the reader to ask lots of questions which will help to compose an image of the narrator.
Also, the image of midnight is black, which is contrast to the white of the snowman; perhaps there are two opposite sides to this narrator.
Think about what the poet DOESN’T tell you, but the assumptions you can make by looking closely at the language she uses and the images which are created. That will allow you to form an ORIGINAL interpretation of the poem and that is what gets an A STAR.
(*that’s a lie. Her love child is with Prince William)