Carol Ann Duffy is a contemporary Scottish poet who was born in Glasgow in 1955. She is in the prime of her career. Her poem ‘Valentine’ is a dramatic but unique poem that likens love to an onion.
Christina Rossetti was born in England in 1830 and died in 1894 at the age of 64. ‘Remember’ is her most famous poem and is often recited at funerals. It is more of a traditional love poem however it is sad and more depressing than you would expect of one. Christina was known for her downheartedness and this came through in her poetry.
Traditionally love is referred to as something great, which lasts forever, something that can conquer any diversity or challenge. It is powerful yet gentle and comforting when you’re in your moment of weakness. However we all know there’s more to it than just ‘happily ever after.’
Carol Ann Duffy also knew there is much more to love than ‘happily ever after’ and portrays this in her poem ‘Valentine’ very well which is a dramatic monologue. There is no specific pattern to the structure of her poem. She has kept some lines single like, “I am trying to be truthful” and “Take it.” I think she does this to increase the impact of certain statements, so we remember them. She has also used one word sentences such as, “Here” and “Lethal.” This too makes just these words stick out and adds drama to her poem. I think she uses effects like these and sounds so commanding because she doesn’t want to sugar coat love. She wants to be as realistic and as true as possible, so she has to be commanding at times just like love is.
Carol Ann Duffy’s language in this poem is not that which you would expect for a poem about love. Some of her choices of words are very blunt and unforgiving like, “grief,” “possessive,” “knife,” “onion,” and again “lethal” is an unusual word to use in a love poem. She has used blunt and unforgiving words in order to make sure she puts across what love is actually like. Don’t forget love is the cause of most of all the heartache throughout the world! So she must show this in her poem. The language is also easily understood and straight to the point.
What makes ‘Valentine’ such a great poem is the imagery Carol Ann Duffy uses so successfully. “It will blind you with tears like a lover. It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief.” This is a prime example, when even though she is talking about the way an onion can make your eyes water, she makes the point that love isn’t always blissful; it can be heartbreaking and distressing. Another example is, “Its scent will cling to your fingers, cling to your knife.” The use of the word cling shows that love can be strong and powerful but not always in a positive way. I also think she is trying to say that the love you have for someone will stay with you and not let go. It might continue to hurt you long after the relationship is over.
The tone of the poem is urgent and direct. Within this poem Carol Ann Duffy has stripped the meaning of love down to the core. I mean this in the sense that she has clearly discarded clichï¿½s like moonlit walks because she knows they have no relevance to the true meaning of love, “Not a rose or satin heart.” “Possessive and faithful as we are, for as long as we are,” this statement shows she knows love can be temporary and it’s a big achievement if you can make it last and maintain the same passion.
It is obvious why this poem is unconventional. The very fact that she is giving her valentine an onion as a gift tells you everything you need to know! Especially when usually love poems are full with joy and roses, you wouldn’t expect a love poem to be depressing in the slightest and yet Carol Ann Duffy has managed in her love poem.
The overall message of ‘Valentine’ is that love is not just what the commercialism of Valentines Day has tried to create. There are many sides to it, ‘layers’ if you will, that together if conquered can make something unbreakable in both a positive and negative way. Love can bring strangers together, it can save lives and love can conquer any diversity. However it can also be the cause of so much pain and heart ache, it can result in people being banished from their family because of who they fell in love with.
The poem ‘Remember’ is an Italian sonnet. In the octave Rossetti urges the reader to remember her, “remember me when I am gone away”; however in the sestet she talks about forgetting, “yet if you should forget me for a while” then in the volta she changes her opinion, “better by far you should forget and smile, than that you should remember and be sad.” This shows that there is no clear cut side to love and there are always variables.
The language in Christina Rossetti’s poem is what you would expect from a poem about love; she uses kind and gentle words like, “hold,” “silent land” and “pray.” This sensitive language represents an over-romantic side of love.
In ‘Remember’ imagery is used to make things like death seem less horrible, “into the silent land” the way Christina Rossetti has expressed it here it seems like a peaceful thing. In doing this she eases the readers mind to thinking she didn’t suffer.
There is a solemn tone throughout ‘Remember’ “For if the darkness and corruption leave.” It is also a reflective poem, “Remember me when no more day by day you tell me of our future that you plann’d.” She obviously had a special relationship with whoever the poem was written for.
This poem ‘Remember’ is unconventional because it is about love and death instead of love and life. “Better by far you should forget me and smile,” it speaks of forgetting the person you loved so dearly because it is the only way to be happy and move on. I don’t think it’s as optimistic and cheerful as you would expect from a poem about love.
Christina Rossetti is trying to show that life does go on when or if you loose a loved one. That even if you feel bad for forgetting that person you once held so close, it’s the only way to move on. I suppose it also shows an unconditional side to love. She is ready and accepting of the fact that she must be forgotten in order for her love to be happy again.
I believe that Carol Ann Duffy’s poem ‘Valentine’ is the most effective love poem. As unconventional as it is, it makes you think about love in different ways, no other poem would, “It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.” This is a particularly effective metaphor because like the moon love promises light in life. It is an amazing thing if you can get it but it isn’t realised as it should be. The reader is at first shocked at the idea that love is anything like an onion but by the end of the poem your eyes have been opened to how much they have in common. The way that Carol Ann Duffy was able to write this poem so successfully, and clearly state her view on love in such a pictorial way, shows that she has true talent and a very real understanding of the true nature of love.