Both Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage use a range of methods in their exploration of the theme of change. Duffy’s poems tend to be more personal although in her poems about change, such as ‘Pluto’ and ‘The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team’ she writes in a male voice which then distances her from the speaker. Armitage writes more universal poems, few of which are written of personal experiences in the first person. Both write about change in a mostly negative manner, particularly seen in ‘Pluto’, ‘The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team’ and ‘Afterword.
The use of form and structure contributes considerably to the exploration of the theme of change. It is used variably through their poetry. In ‘Man with a Golf Ball Heart’ by Armitage, he uses what could be a sonnet to express change. The poem has fourteen lines and at the sixth line begins with ‘but’ which signals change. It could therefore be a modernised petrarchan sonnet. This would be appropriate as one of the poem’s themes is change and would be an original way to explore that theme. The poem is written in prose-like free verse as Armitage is telling a story of what happened when he opened up a golf ball and is then likening it the man’s heart. By doing so he uses more description and creates clear visual images. The graphic description of the golf ball uses words such as ‘bitter’, ‘bad’ and ‘weep’ which have negative connotations. The view of change in this poem is negative and tells of how the man became.
The prose technique is again used by Armitage in ‘Goalkeeper with a Cigarette’ in which the poem is written entirely in that style. This poem is a detailed description of an old-fashioned goalkeeper and therefore is helped by this writing style. By using an effective description technique Armitage is able to explore the theme of change in a different way in that this poem looks upon change in a nostalgic way that is not negative. However, in the poem ‘Afterword’ Armitage uses a very different structural technique. It is written in three quatrains and a couplet which is organised in a style preferred by Duffy.
This is used as the poem is quite straightforward in its description of when two twins become distanced. It does not look at how, merely focuses on an instance when they are reunited. The structure then enhances the simplicity of the poem. The tone of the poem is less romantic than that of Duffy’s work. Its tone is cold. Alliteration accentuates the ‘f’ sound in the first stanza which sounds harsh. This highlights change as it is not a tone that one would associate with twins who grew up together so therefore a change must have occurred. It also uses lots of rhyme where the words are matched up, in a way that twins are. In the second stanza all the rhymed words rhyme with twin. The rhyme also creates a steady internal rhythm.
Carol Ann Duffy also uses form and structure to accentuate meaning. It is used in a very particular way in ‘Pluto’. In this poem the layout is different to others. Rather than the normal organised stanzas they are uneven and the second and third stanzas are indented. Duffy does this to represent a change in tense. This is done quite dramatically, as the style is very different to her preferred method, and so emphasises the change in tense and the emotions the speaker is feeling in being different to how he once was. His thoughts are written in italics which further adds to the uneven form of the poem.
The form and structural techniques used in ‘The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team’ more like Duffy’s style. The stanzas are organised and all are end stopped. It looks organised on the page and is preferred by Duffy. The first three stanzas are spoken as if from the past and the final stanza jumps to the present, therefore highlighting a change in the speaker’s life. Duffy uses italics again here to highlight quiz questions, answers and sounds. This breaks up the rhythm of the poem which could be a reflection of the speaker’s dissatisfied attitude to his current state and how his mind is still in the past before the change to his life occurred.
Duffy again uses organised stanzas in ‘Before You Were Mine’ which are five lines long and each is end stopped. The way the poem is told is unusual as it is talking about the future from the perspective of a child before that child was born. The change in the poem is therefore told from a different and unusual angle. This method compares how the speaker’s mother was to how she is now.
Both Armitage and Duffy use register and lexis to give their poems a certain feel. In ‘The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team’ Duffy uses words with connotations such as ‘satchel’ and mentions icons such as the ‘Supremes’ in order to give the poem a 1960s feel. This highlights the change from ‘then’ to ‘now’. The poem has a negative view towards change shown in its negative tone and register. The speaker is bitter about how his life has turned out. This is revealed in Duffy’s lexical choice such as referring to his children as ‘thick’ only because they do not know what their father does. Duffy distances this poem from herself by using a man as the speaker and therefore making the poem more universal.
They also both use an informal register and colloquial expressions. These can be seen in ‘Goalkeeper with a Cigarette’ by Armitage and ‘Before You Were Mine’ by Duffy. In ‘Goalkeeper with a Cigarette’ the poem has a nostalgic, ‘good old days’ theme and so in keeping with that theme the lexis used is old fashioned. Duffy chooses colloquial expressions such as ‘jersey’ and ‘cadging’. The register is informal in ‘Before You Were Mine’ as Duffy is talking directly to her mother. She also uses colloquial language such as ‘eh?’ By using this register both Armitage and Duffy suggest times gone by and therefore change to what exists now. Such as, people do not particularly wear jerseys anymore.
A technique also used by both is that of metaphorical language and, more specifically, imagery and symbolism. Armitage uses symbolism and metaphors in ‘Man with a Golf Ball Heart’ as he uses the metaphor of the golf ball to symbolise the man’s heart and the change it went through; how it was an apple once. This particular poem is all a metaphor for the man’s heart, however, in other poems by both Armitage and Duffy symbolism and metaphors are used more to create certain images. In ‘Goalkeeper with a Cigarette’ it is used to create a certain image. By using phrases such as ‘pouch of tobacco and skins’ and ‘sausage-man gloves’ a clear picture of the keeper is formed in the reader’s mind.
Further imagery is used in ‘Afterword’ when Armitage describes how the brother’s relationship has become. He writes:
‘each eyeing the other
through a telescope
which had once been a mirror.’
Armitage uses the metaphors of mirror and telescope to highlight the distance that has grown between them.
Duffy uses imagery in a similar way. In ‘Before You Were Mine’ she likens her mother to Marilyn Monroe. This creates an instant image of what her mother may have been like, or how the speaker saw her. In ‘Pluto’ Duffy uses imagery in a way more similar to that of ‘Man with a Golf Ball Heart’. The way the speaker is feeling is compared to the existence of Pluto. Pluto is imagined to be a very lonely, dark place. This is likened to the existence of the old man, alone in a Home. He refers to ‘another world out there’ which can be taken as a double meaning for both Pluto and his previous life which now feels like another world away. By creating this metaphor Duffy is able to illustrate the emotions of the speaker. She also creates images for physical descriptions such as ‘brown coins on my face the size of ha’pennies’.
Using metaphorical language in these poems contributes to the exploration of change. By creating images it forms comparisons of what was and what is and shows the difference between them. It highlights the changes that have taken places and the speaker’s view of them.
Duffy and Armitage have different general styles in their writing techniques. Both use different themes, tones and forms. However in their poems which portray their ideas of change they often both use similar techniques to each other, although each maintains their own style and none of the poems could be confused for one of the others’.
Courtney from Study Moose
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