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Eastern Asia Essay

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In the penultimate stanza, Duffy names the different types of tea; ‘Jasmine, Gunpowder, Assam, Earl Grey, Ceylon’, suggesting the extent in which she’d be happy to make him any tea of his choice. Her obsession with the names of different teas is caused by her irrevocable love for him. Because she loves him, and everything about him, she illustrates this idea in the next sentence, ‘I love tea’s names.’ She even offers to make him tea, ‘which tea would you like?’ which refers back to the third stanza, where she says ‘I like the questions -sugar? milk?’, amplifying the fact that if it’s for him, she’d make it, at ‘any time of day’.

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This could also illustrate her determination, caring nature and her eagerness for her duty to please him.

In the final stanza, Carol Anne Duffy creates a mental image of the tropics of South Eastern China, where numerous teas are harvested from the ground. The word ‘harvest’ hints a laborious activity, similar to the effort she’s demonstrating in her immaterial aspect of making tea. As the women plough for the best leaves, she too, ‘ploughs’ and strains his tea, so ‘smitten’, that she’d want to make every effort in order to provide him with the best tea.

Invoking ‘Mouth Wu-Yi’ transports our minds to Eastern Asia, which is a powerful literary effect. She has fallen so deeply in love with him, even his tea, she is completely besotted about. In the final line, she openly says; ‘I am your lover, smitten, straining your tea.’ [1] This shows her realism and her sincerity, that she can admit, she is ‘smitten’ for him. The use of the negative word ‘smitten’ could entail that her love is unconditional, or she is much more love-struck, compared to her lover.

I enjoyed reading this poem, and liked the way Duffy expertly shows the theme of love, from even ordinary tea. The poem is very interesting and it flows, rather like tea, which is why the title is significant, as it relates back to the structure of the poem, and how easily the poem ebbs. As the poem continues, the sentences get longer and more fluid, implying when her partner is at home, she feels more at ease and relaxed. The stanza’s are very rich in description and invoke tropics from eastern China, transporting your mind to exotic locations, incorporating a myriad of effective literary devices.

I think Carol Anne Duffy does often portray a negative view of love; it permeates the collection of ‘Rapture’, and is mirrored in ‘Mean Time’. Her representation of love shows themes of depictions of reality, isolation and unconditional love, which all have resounding concepts of negativity. Many critics have accused Duffy of being too harsh in her realism of her poetry, one, Rees-Jones, commented on Duffy’s work, to admit her poetry is ‘highly acclaimed'[2] for her outstanding skill, but the work is ‘an impulse towards realism'[2], showing that construction of the themes mainly comprise of sincerity and realistic love. To achieve this sense of realism often brings about pessimism, which Duffy infuses within her work.


[1] Carol Ann Duffy, ‘Rapture -Tea’, 20 New Wharf Road, London, Basingstoke and Oxford, Picador, 2005, Page 20

[2]Contemporary Writers, Elizabeth O’Reilly, Critical Perspective, 01 December 2010, http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth104

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