Carol Ann Duffy is a contemporary poet, born in 1955, writing right now. She is one of the main poets in the OCR anthology, and also features in the WJEC and AQA anthologies for GCSE. She is the Poet Laureate and Professor of Contemporary Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University where she teaches.

Are Poems Always About You? They come from lots of places: from personal experience; from memory. Things can be emotionally true even if they are not factually true. Not every poem has to be ‘from’ you even if it is ‘by’ you – other people’s voices come into my poetry.
Are some things too personal to write about?

The minute you decide to write a poem you are making artistic and technical decisions about rhyme and form and structure. Each one of those decisions pushes it away from the personal and makes it an artwork.

Can you teach the art of poetry?
You can teach form. You can teach students how to write a limerick… I always start with my favourite one: “There was a young man from Australia, who painted his arse like a dahlia, tuppence a smell, went down very well, but thruppence a lick was a failure.” That’s not even the rudest one I teach.
What’s the best poem ever written?
Shakespeare’s sonnet, number 116: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments” – but I could change my mind tomorrow.

Typical features of Duffy’s work

re-imaginings of famous women, historical or literary in  the dramatic monologues: ‘Havisham’, ‘Elvis’ Twin Sister’ and ‘Medusa’the fierce nature of love, jealousy, power, hurt: ‘Quickdraw’, ‘Valentine’. ‘Medusa’ and ‘Havisham’ dramatise bitter, rejected women.

A* Analysis
+ Havisham  In Havisham, we see love gone wrong. Carol Ann Duffy re-imagines Dicken’s eternal Spinster in this dramatic first person monologue where Miss Havisham makes exclamations – ‘bastard’ and demands – ‘Give me’ to no one in particular. If this is a relationship, she’s racked by violent emotion, but no one is listening.
The first oxymoron, violently expressed, sets the tone of the poem: ‘beloved sweetheart bastard’. Duffy exploits the plosive ‘b’ sound, luxurious long-syllables ‘beloved’ ‘sweetheart’ then short, violent sound of ‘bastard’ to create an abrupt and shocking start… [read more]
Medusa  In ‘Medusa’, Carol Ann Duffy creates a personification of jealousy that flickers from mythical re-imagining, through metaphor to a vividly specific instance of ‘Love gone bad.’ The language of the first person narrator is violent, mixing classical idea with base colloquialism (‘shit’) and onomatopoeia like machine gun fire. The use of theimperative is sublime: ‘Be terrified. // It’s you I love.’
The structure is regular: six lines per stanza, each one perfectly end-stopped, but the line length is as jagged as the mood. The rhymes, when they come, are out of step, as in stanza three where ‘own’ rhymes with ‘stone’ and in four where ‘ground’ only half-rhymes with ‘down’ – echoing the colloquialism ‘ground down’… [read more]
Quickdraw  ‘Quickdraw’ looks very regular, albeit broken mid-line. The mid-line breaks create four stanzas of four lines each, but the abrupt, irregular breaking suggests fracture, or the shots fired in the gun battle – like mini cliff-hangers: ‘you… blast me // through the heart’. Duffy repeats a twisted version of a colloquial phrase at the end ‘Take this’ (normally ‘take that’), mixed with ellipsis … so when the poem ends, the battle continues, but the words become vague – we can no longer see what’s happening: as if it fades out. [read more]
+ Valentine  ‘Valentine’ seems wildly irregular, but is written in iambic pentameter, the jagged edges and abrupt end-stopped lines hiding an underlying calm, unstoppable rhythm, like the beating of a heart. The shortest line ‘Here.’ is a fraction of ‘Its platinum loops…’ – monosyllabic, abrupt, a fragment, but with a soft, breathy quality like an exhalation. Much of the poem is monsyllabic, simple words to show the simplicity of love. The frequent line-breaks give pause for breath, or thought, giving a sense of slow care, while the repetition of ‘I give you an onion’ breaks the poem into two sections, a re-presentation of what it means, and seems to suggest: it always comes back to [read more]
+ War Photographer  In terms of structure, ‘War Photographer’ is tight, echoing the uneasy juxtaposition of ‘spools of suffering’ in ‘neatly ordered rows’. Suffering is an abstract, and should not be neatly controlled. ‘Ordered rows’ evokes mass wartime burials, or piles of bodies, neatly sorted after some atrocity. The mood is made even more awkward through the rich and sensual sounds, of sibilants, liquids/voiceless fricatives and long syllables in ‘spools’ and ‘suffering’. Each stanza is perfectly regular: four of six lines, with a perfectly regular rhyme scheme, with a neat couplet to end each line – and is almost iambic pentameter. The feel at first is soft, steady, drawing us without warning into the violence at the centre of … [read more]