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There are many similarities and also many differences between the poems, Before You Were Mine by Carol Ann Duffy and * by Simon Armitage. Both poems are about the relationship between a mother and her child. The gender of the child is not specified in either of the poems but we assume that the main character in Before You Were Mine is a little girl and in * it is a young man.
Because the main character’s ‘assumed’ gender is the same as the poets, the poems could have been written about the poets own childhood and relationship with their mothers.
Neither of the poems can be fully understood at a first reading and need to be studied in depth to get their full meaning, especially in *. The title, Before You Were Mine suggests that the poem is about what happened before the (mother) belonged to the child. This is quite unusual as we usually think of the mother owning and caring for the child, not the other way round.
The title, * is unusual as it is not expected as a title for a poem. Because the poem has a lot to do with time, measures and the sky, the poem could possibly suggest that we are all stars or turn into stars when we die.
It could also imply that the mother talked about in the poem is a star because she gave up her past life for him, looked after and loved him and helped him measure his new house.
Although both the poems are about the relationship between a mother and her child and both in the 1st person, the meanings are quite different. Before You Were Mine talks about how the girl imagined her mother to be 10 years ago, before she was born and the woman then was her mother, ‘I knew you would dance like that.
‘ She imagines how her mother got pregnant, ‘the right walk home could bring’ and also indicates some of the memories of the relationship between her and her mother, ‘I remember my hands in those high heeled shoes’, and ‘You’d teach me the steps on the way home from Mass. ‘ The poem is about the ‘glamorous’ life the girl’s mother lived, when she ‘laughed, sparkled and waltzed,’ and how she had to make a sacrifice and give it all up when she had her. However, small parts of the mother’s past shine through, like when she teaches her daughter dance steps on the way home from mass; something mother’s weren’t supposed to do.
The child in Before You Were Mine knows she has changed her mother’s glamorous life forever but never blames herself. On the other hand, she is very possessive over her mother, ‘mine’, as is she is her property. * is different because it about a young man, perhaps moving out of his mother’s house, into a new house. His mother is helping him to measure it up, which is usually the role the father takes. The poem uses a mixture of metric and imperial measures such as acres, centimetres, single span and one-hundredth of an inch as moving into a new house could represent moving into a new time.
The mother uses imperial measurements where as the son uses metric measurements. The tape is also very significant and used to show the ‘unreeling years between them’. Simon Armitage mixes the past and present. Before You Were Mine talks about what the mum was like before she had her daughter. It mentions her name and explores time, using the past and present. *never actually describes the mum is like or ever called. It just shows how she came to help her son when he needed her. It uses the past, present and future.
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