Yesterday I read about 50 pages of Rees-Jones’ book of Duffy’s work. Despite Duffy’s A-Level presence, she lacks background material. This book is fairly dense. These thoughts are those that remain:
Surrealism – Duffy employs surrealism to explore ideas that do not yet exist. I remember writing on Edward Lear in university, suggesting his surrealism gives body to ideas we can imagine but do not experience (like equality!).
Perspectives of signified and signifier – Duffy’s playfulness with sound and semantics intersects with her surrealistic tendencies. Connections that may not be naturally made can exist if matched sonically. The examples Rees-Jones picks up are based on gender expectations.
Dramatic monologue as a method – I admire limits to perspective, of how the reader might react to detecting a hidden value. I was most struck by the pseudo-male vernacular that Duffy employs in the ‘farting-guinness’ excerpt. Her proposal to never again write in a male voice seems to me political. In the latter half of Feminine Gospels, she moves beyond genderised voice issues.
Her relationship with Adrian Henri – Again prominent in Feminine Gospels, Duffy’s relationship with Henri in her youth guided her writing. His membership with the Liverpool poets, some still alive, marks a time where poetry tackled class issues in the public eye. This leads to the points below.
Highbrow vs Lowbrow – Duffy’s apparent strength is her use of vernacular within the abstract. She employs idioms and vulgarities within more conceptual frameworks. In The Woman Who Shopped, for example, her most caustic and vulgar imagery is reserved to deride hyper-consumerism. The impact is telling, serving as the flagship poem for students to enter the anthology, I think.