Rapture is Carol Ann Duffy's seventh collection of poems. It is a collection that has love as its underlying theme or unifying idea. The collection is made up of short lyrical poems in which Miss Duffy sets out to express and explore a range of emotions and ideas surrounding the notion of love. Given this narrow subject matter, the question at the back of my mind as I set out to read the collection was just how well will Miss Duffy maintain my interest?
Most of the poems are delivered by a first person narrator speaking to a second person, "you". Although it is not always clear who the second person is, nonetheless this approach gives the poems a personal and intimate feel. The intensity of feelings conveyed are even further heighten by, in some instances, setting them against the background of a river, a forest, rain, etc. In the poem River, the intensity of feelings is made real by the fact that the poet personifies the river leaving the reader with a clear image of just how tender love can be.
Almost as if harking back to the romantic era, in the poem Haworth Miss Duffy continues to draw on natural phonomena as a backdrop to her theme of love. Haworth presents a powerful way of recalling a love vanquished by death. The natural surroundings are full of reminders of lost love. But this is not just a lament for a lover passed on it is also a love song for and to nature.
One of the things these poems reminds us of is that although the person whom one has loved is no longer present, love continues. The reminders of what was once in place with all its impact is to be seen everywhere, for example, in places (Haworth), in time (Hour), in nature (Rain), and in the everyday things we take for granted (Swing). Love never really dies.
What I found particularly interesting about Rapture is that for the contemporary reader hell bent on materialism it shows that love is not about money or the over extensive use of material gifts but instead the idea of being together, doing and sharing the everyday things of life. Take for example the poem Tea, the first verse with its ordinary activity states: "I like pouring your tea,/ lifting the heavy pot, and tipping it up,/ so the fragrant liquid steams in your China cup". How much more down to earth can you get than this?
These are poems in which the narrator's reminiscences are triggered by places and events. This method gave scope to Miss Duffy to undertake an exercise in craftmanshift and technical accomplishment. So in The Lovers there is a contrast between two sets of lovers one with a home and one without or notice the way Miss Duffy manages to maintain a perfect rhyming scheme in the triplet stanzas of Haworth. I was dazzled by Miss Duffy's display of control over the form in which she presents her subject. But sometimes the brevity of the poems made the subject fleeting in terms of the significance it was meant to convey.
The poetic devices Miss Duffy uses renders her language afresh. Her poems are littered with internal rhymes sometimes quickening the rhythm and pace of the language - see for example the poem Quickdraw. Miss Duffy's use of poetic devices also had the effect of making me look at the familiar in a fresh light. Take the poem New Year, how refreshing it is to ring in the new year with these thoughts: "I drop the dying year behind me like a shawl/ and let it fall. The urgent fireworks fling themselves/ against the night, flowers of desire, love's fervency." Then in the poem Art, Miss Duffy does an almost comprehensive display of poetic devies: there is a sustained rhyming scheme, there is alliteration and there is even onamatopoeia - brilliant or a little too much?
Rapture is a delightful collection of love poems. It was refreshing to see how Miss Duffy managed to sustain a comparison between love and ordinary everyday things and activities. I was also beguiled by Miss Duffy's use of language and poetic devices.