on 17 March 2004
I have read anything I can get my hands on since I was a small child, but have never really been able to get into poetry. Apart from the little amount I did at school with my only remembered poem,"I wandered lonely as a cloud" by Wordsworth, I only recently decided to try poetry, hence Carol Ann Duffy as one bit of blurb I read, said "non-poetry readers should read her". I started with Feminine Gospels and found it very accessible.
It's an easy to read style despite the fact that I still expect poetry to rhyme! Her subjects encompass all female trials, tribulations and sufferings and indeed the human condition. I especially loved "The Diet" and "The Woman who shopped", which was so true to life and so close to home that I cringed at the words!
She really is a storyteller/chronicler of women of today and I can't believe I haven't discovered her before. I will now aim to read her other work while trying to not follow "the woman who shopped"!
on 24 October 2003
After reading the ecstatic newspaper reviews, I opened Feminine Gospels expecting not so much a volume of poetry as a quasi-religious experience; I didn’t quite receive one, but the collection is nevertheless very strong – if not quite up to the standard of her previous book, The World’s Wife.
As always, Carol Ann Duffy’s language is brilliantly structured, with rhymes cropping up unexpectedly and imagery that is both fresh and well chosen; this sets her work apart from much modern poetry, where the metaphors and similes are often original but try too hard to be smart, with the result that they are inapposite, conjuring up nothing other than confusion for the reader. In ‘A Dreaming Week’ the poem’s narrator is ‘dreaming/on the monocle of the moon/a sleeping S on the page of a bed/in the tome of a dim room.’ That scholastic imagery is palpably sharp, and the fact that the poet has achieved the lines’ musicality without making them seem either trite or dated bears testament to her skills.
The collection, focused (as the title suggests) on women, contains mostly very good poems, with a few great ones. ‘Beautiful’ is a moving history of strong women suffering in a male world, in which the leading character changes from Helen of Troy to Cleopatra, then to Marilyn Monroe, and finally to the less mourned-over Princess Diana, who ends the poem with ‘History’s stinking breath in her face.’ ‘The Diet’, about a woman who starves herself until she is size of an atom, ends with a marvellously literal take on the idea that inside every fat woman there’s a thin one trying to get out.
There are some weaker moments. ‘Sub’, in which the narrator recounts her role in various moments of male success (such as scoring Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup Final, while menstruating) does not convince. Although the mixture of heroism and prissy separateness (she ‘skipped the team bath with the lads/sipped my champagne in the solitary shower’) is funny, the inadvertent falseness of the poem is best summed up by the misspelling of Muhammad Ali as ‘Mohammed Ali’, and by the claim that the ’66 hat-trick was scored in extra time: it wasn’t. (Both errors may, of course, be intentional, but I can’t see why they should be.) The collection’s set-piece, a long prose poem entitled ‘The Laughter of Stafford Girls’ High’, is hit and miss. Occasionally, the writing here is neither poetry nor particularly good prose, but the accurate portrayal of a repressed grammar school does ultimately hit the mark, and the sign-off is exquisite: ‘Higher again, a teacher fell through the clouds with a girl in her arms.’
So, essentially a success, and still way ahead of most of her peers’ efforts. Carol Ann Duffy’s slight problem, though, is that being one of the best poets of modern times she is marked according the highest standard – that of her own previous work.
on 30 January 2003
As a fan of 'The World's Wife', I didn't think it could get much better. Here, however, is proof both of my lack of faith and of Duffy's genius.
The clue to what one may find in 'Feminine Gospels' is contained in the title - a collection of poems at once elegaic, profound, often funny, and always, ALWAYS touching. Here, fantasy blurs with harsh reality, humour with tragedy. Every aspect of every female condition is contained in this slim volume - from love to eating disorders, from shopping to contagious girlish giggling. Her shortest poems are little gems, her longest the most startling treasure trove. Whole lives are condensed into sentences.
Never laboured, always breathtaking, Duffy's multi-layered poetry excites the reader so much that one is compelled to re-read it again and again.
on 25 March 2011
If you buy this looking for a lightweight view of the feminine in our world, you will be disappointed. I loved it, but there is little sign here of the poet who wrote some of the things that have delighted her readers and made us laugh. (Eurydice?) In this work she sets out her table very clearly as to what she does feel about feminism in our present world - read it, it is great.
on 10 June 2008
I am an A Level English student and study Carol Ann Duffy to anyone as she is nothing short of brilliant. I would reccomend any of her collections especially selected poems or the world's wife, which is similar to this as it tackles feminine ideas. Duffy really understands words which is what makes her such a great poet, she knows how to connect to the reader and her poems have so much depth to them that it actually takes some thinking about. Ignore the reviews here that slag Duffy off as these people could never write poetry like Duffy and it is only ignorance that fails to see Duffy's brilliance as a writer. I gained much from studying her as it reminded me that poems such as these should not be taken at face value and I would reccomend her to anyone simply for the themes she uses and portrays and for the way she makes the reader re think their preconceived conceptions of the world.
on 14 December 2012
The Poet Laureate always has something interesting to say. I would love to be able to write a review to do it justice. Poetry lovers everywhere will adore this collection.
on 1 August 2013
I picked this book up on a whim at the weekend, and I absolutely love it!
I haven't read poetry since school, but these are full of beautiful imagery, engaging characters and clever observations. I find myself feeling shocked and delighted as I read these, this confirmation that I am not alone in my discomfort with certain aspects of society.
My boyfriend, who often struggles to relate to the false portrayal of women in modern culture, also loves these, so it's not just for the vaginally-endowed among us!
Lack of interest in poetry, we're lead to believe, is due to its reputation as being either inaccessible, or irrelevant. The good news, if this is the case, is that the work of the newly appointed Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, refutes both of these notions. Her poetry engages with everyday experience, uses everyday language, and borrows the patterns and rhythms of poetry to weave something altogether fresh; and in no sense can insight or thought be said to have been sacrificed.
Feminine Gospels sees Duffy turn her uncompromising gaze on female identity, both in the modern world, and historically, using surrealism, fairytale and magic to breathe new life into familiar themes. The poems are exploratory, revisionist, playful, ironic, tender; celebrating, exposing and demythologising "woman".
Poems about women and everyday experience (work, history, the news, shopping) seem to characterise the beginning of this collection. "Beautiful" is a highlight; a longer poem that tells of (reclaims?) the beauty of Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana.
"The Diet" is also excellent, and sees a woman with "guns for hips" shrinking, dwindling away until:
She lived in a tear, swam
clear, moved south to a mouth, kipped in the chap
of a lip.
She continues her journey and Jonahesque is "gulped, swallowed, sent down the hatch/in a river of wine..."
The long (20 page) narrative poem "The Laughter of Stafford Girls' High" comes two-thirds of the way through the collection. Whilst I'm not convinced of it being her best poetry; it's a sharply observed piece: an eventful and slightly surreal take on schoolgirl life.
And there seems to be shift, in the final few poems, to a much more personal reflection on love, life and death. The elegiac "Death and the Moon" that ends the collection (surely connected to the death of Adrian Henri, through its dedication), tries to speak to those who have died:
and though I was there when you died,
in the red cave of your widow's unbearable cry,
and measured the space between last words
and silence, I cannot say where you are.
Interspersed are a couple of poems about children, "The Cord" dedicated to her daughter, which spins a mythic story of birth, and "The Light Gatherer" is poignant and lyrical about the beginning of life "like a jewelled cave,/turquoise and diamond and gold, opening out/at the end of a tunnel of years."
Duffy fans will find her in fine poetic form in this volume, which is high praise indeed. And if you're new to Duffy, and daring to give poetry a try, then you couldn't find a better place to start.
on 24 May 2015
Product was ordered as pre-owned. Sadly a common problem with Amazon is that all cover variations are sold under one product, making it very difficult to tell what cover will be received. In this instance, I received a different cover to the one shown. This is a problem as I intend to collect all the anthologies published by Duffy in the advertised style. However, the anthology itself is wonderful and I cannot score it down for Amazon's faults, so score it 4 stars.
on 18 October 2013
Needed for English Literature course in a hurry!! And I am glad to say it arrived very quickly. My daughter loves the poems but I find them too modern for my tastes.