Duffy’s ‘Recognition’ and Lochhead’s ‘Lanarkshire Girls’ both speak of a significant moment in the speakers’ lives. The former is a dramatic monologue spoken from the perspective of an older woman who realises she has grown older and regrets not doing more with her life, whereas, ‘Lanarkshire Girls’ is a young girl’s account of the first time she was allowed to travel into the city with her friends on the bus alone.
‘Recognition’ is structured into 8 quatrain stanzas which is visually neat, showing the structure of life however, on closer inspection, the use of enjambment between paragraphs shows the relentlessness of time and how it cannot be stopped or controlled. In contrast, ‘Lanarkshire Girls’ is set in three stanzas to represent the three stages of the speaker’s journey; leaving the countryside, approaching the city, and travelling through the city. This poem is written in free verse and contains enjambment and lists, ‘gospel halls, chapels, Orange halls,/ doctors’ surgeries, the crematorium, the zoo’, to show the girls’ excitement as there is too much for them to take in as they quickly drive past these sites; it is this excitement and adoration that makes this a significant moment for the girls.
The tone in each poem differs thus showing the speakers’ differing reactions to their individual significant moments. In ‘Recognition’ the tone is regretful and bitter, ‘Children? I’ve had three/ and I don’t even know them’. However, a strain of positivity runs through the poem when the speaker recalls times from her past and happy memories from her childhood, ‘I lay in my slip on wet grass/ laughing’. There is also a tone of positivity in ‘Lanarkshire Girls’ however, it is more dominant than that in ‘Recognition’ as the speaker is constant adoration of her surroundings which is shown through her use of plosive verbs and alliteration, ‘proud pubs… coherent cliffs… many mansions… glamourous Gallowgate’. However, before they reach their destination, the tone of the poem is agitated and annoyed which is shown through the metaphor, ‘Summer annoyed us… like a boy with a stick through railings.’
In ‘Lanarkshire Girls’, the opening line of the second stanza is isolated, ‘Then it was’ which shows the importance of the significant moment as the girls approach the city of Glasgow. The old woman’s significant moment of realisation in ‘Recognition’ is demonstrated through the juxtaposition at the end of the poem, ‘in a hot flush, [I] bumped/ into an anxious, dowdy matron/ who touched the cold mirror’. The hot flush represents the woman’s age as she is experiencing menopause, this is then contrasted by the cold mirror; the cold harshness of reality and realisation of this. The speaker’s realisation is soon followed by the repetition of the word, ‘stared’ and ‘sorry’; the repetition of ‘stared’ shows the shock the speaker is experiencing while the repetition of, ‘sorry’ shows the woman’s acceptance following the shock and she apologises to herself for letting her life get away from her.
The technique of lists is employed by both poets in both poems; in ‘Lanarkshire Girls’ to symbolise the contrast between the dense, packed conditions of the city and the sparse countryside of the girl’s homes, showing that this contrast makes the experience all the more significant. The list and lack of full stops increases the pace of the poem and therefore, accurately represents what the speaker sees as her ‘bus sped/ past’. On the other hand, in ‘Recognition’ a shopping list is used and shows that the speaker’s mind is wondering from past to present. The speaker is on a shopping trip whilst simultaneously reminiscing about her past; about happier, more carefree times, ‘Quiche. A blonde boy swung me up/ in his arms and promised the earth.’
The shopping trip is metaphorical for life as the speaker says, ‘I tried to do all the essentials/ in one trip’, the ‘one trip being her life. Here, the speaker may be explaining how she focused on reaching the goals she thought appropriate for leading a fulfilled life such as getting married and having children, but in reality when she considers this from a different perspective, she realises that these things have not made her happy, ‘I love him [her husband], through habit,/ but the proof/ has evaporated’; she is not content in her marriage, this leads to the significant moment at the end of her shopping trip when she recognises that in attempting to lead the perfect life, she has wasted hers.
The poets’ use of language shows the speakers’ reactions and how they feel about their significant moments and experiences. In ‘Lanarkshire Girls’, positive, powerful verbs are used to show the exciting nature of their experience, ‘spilled us out… dreaming ourselves up, with holiday money burning a hole in our pockets’, whereas in ‘Recognition’ negative, pessimistic language is employed to show the older woman’s feelings toward the significant moment in which she realises she has allowed time to pass by her, ‘My face is swollen/ with regrets… I wept… the waste.’ The woman, ‘bumped’ into the realisation; it was unexpected thus making this moment even more significant.
The speakers’ significant moments differ in extremes due to their ages; the speaker in ‘Lanarkshire Girls’ sees hers as a pivotal point in her life where she rushes to grow older, whereas the speaker in ‘Recognition’ faces the realisation that her rush to grow older and fulfil life’s goals is what has led to the significant realisation that she wish she had not.