Before You Were Mine by Carol Ann Duffy

Categories: Carol Ann DuffyPoetry

“Prior to you were mine” is a poem composed by a child about how she imagines her mother’s life 10 years before the child was born. The author explains the picture of her mother with 2 of her good friends. They “shriek at the pavement” and seem to be sharing a joke, young and lightsome (line 4). She understands that the thought of having a child one day doesn’t take place to her mother when she was young and had a great deal of dreams.

Now remembering her own youth, Duffy thinks about how she utilized to play with her mother’s red shoes and imagines when her mom might have used them.

She remembers how her mom utilized to teach her dance steps when she was a little woman. The poem is a four stanza one, each stanza being made up of 5 lines, with some variation in length of line. The first 2 verses focus purely on the life of the mother before the child was born, whilst the third stanza opens with a reference to the child’s birth and after that relocates to the child’s vision of her mother in her earlier life, therefore providing a relate to the previous stanzas.

The fourth stanza begins with a recollection from the daughter’s younger life with her mother, and then takes us back once again to the mother’s days of dancing. I consider that the language contributes to the mood of the poem. The poem is written in first person narrative voice.

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There are many references to her mother as very happy – “you laugh / the bold girl winking in Portobello”, “you sparkle and waltz and laugh”(lines 13-15). The author’s mother’s life can be perceived as flashy.

Her mother is likened to Marilyn Monroe: “Your polka-dot dress blows round your legs. Marilyn” (line 5). Duffy’s mother dreams of “fizzy, movie tomorrows” (line 7). The poem is written in the present tense, as if the events of the photo are happening now. I suppose in this way the poet tries to make her mother’s past as real as possible. It seems juicy to read a poem in which a daughter imagines how full of life and fun her mother must have been before she was born.

Her admiration of her mother is shown in a direct way, and words such as “shriek”, “sparkle” and “fizzy” image the carelessness of youth. Throughout, the poet is very possessive of her mother. References to her appear constantly: “I’m ten years away… ”, “I’m not here yet… ”, “I remember… ” (lines 1, 6 and 12). The word “mine” appears in the title and the poem actually concludes with the same words as the title, as if the poet is locking her mother in a firm embrace of words.

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Before You Were Mine by Carol Ann Duffy. (2017, Feb 16). Retrieved from

Before You Were Mine by Carol Ann Duffy
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