Friday, 11 January 2013

Velentine by Carol Ann Duffy: GCSE English

This week I have been doing poetry with my GCSE groups. Most of them have really liked it, which I'm surprised about. There was only one group who weren't really interested and didn't write many notes. I'm hoping even they can get into it at some point.

We looked at Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy.

Valentine   by Carol Ann Duffy


Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

This poem is clever because instead of using the usual poetic techniques, she uses the symbol of an onion to represent relationships. It sounds like a strange gift, but once you start unpacking the ideas, it begins to make more sense. Think of an onion- it has layers. She uses this to represent the different layers of a relationship, with the centre layer being the size of a wedding ring. You have to go through the layers to get to marriage. She then proves this to be an unncessary, or even deadly thing to do, by using the word 'Lethal'.

She also says the onion will leave a 'fierce kiss' on your lips and the 'scent will cling to your fingers'. Not only does this suggest the feelings will last, there is also an interpretation of the poem that the onion represents a vagina, which gives a whole new idea to these lines, and makes them a little graphic. I've been selective about which classes I teach this interpretation to, as many would roll about laughing for a good hour.

Also, the poem goes through stages of relationships. The beginning is about promise- when you first meet someone. Then it becomes about tears- where you begin to have arguments and dissagreements. Then comse possessive- perhaps they are becoming over-bearing, and the end speaks about a knife letting the reader assume the relationship is broken or fragmented.

My favourite line in the poem is "It is a moon wrapped in brown paper." The paper is the skin of the onion, and the moon is the whiteness once it is peeled. I will think of this when peeling onions and appreciated the luminescence of the peeled onion, before I chop it to make soup.

Do you like poetry? What is your favourite poem?

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