The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy

Now for some poetry as part of this week’s International Women’s Day theme. I feel a bit like Elton John with this week’s blog – I’m still standing! YEAH YEAH YEAH!

I was introduced to the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy, the first female Poet Laureate (only took 341 years…), when a university friend produced The World’s Wife as a play, and Germaine Greer saw the production and apparently gave it a very favourable review! I could recommend any volume of Duffy’s poetry but this is probably my favourite.

Published in 1999, The World’s Wife takes some of the most famous men in myth and history and gives the (usually otherwise historically silent) females in their lives the chance to tell their stories. So, we hear from Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathway (who does not lament being left the infamous ‘second best bed’ as it was ‘the bed we loved in..a spinning world…where he would dive for pearls’), Frau Freud (whose response to Freud’s accusations of penis envy is ‘dear ladies, the average penis – not pretty…the squint of its envious solitary eye…’), Mrs Darwin (who tells her husband that ‘something about that chimpanzee over there reminds me of you’) the Kray Sisters (who describe the Suffragettes as ‘Diamond ladies…those birds who fought for the Vote, salt of the earth’) and many more.

These poems are clever, funny and turn the traditional male-centric stories on their head. I love the fact The World’s Wife is apparently a set text on some A-level English Literature courses these days. There is hope!



15 Comments Add yours

  1. Jan Hicks says:

    I can’t believe I haven’t read any Carol Ann Duffy yet. I need to sort that out. And how fab that she’s on the A Level syllabus. I love the quote you chose from the Ann Hathaway poem.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s wonderful isn’t it. I would also recommend Feminine Gospels and The Bees. Enjoy!


  2. gertloveday says:

    I’m a big fan of Carol Ann Duffy since I read a poem called “Foreign” about how it feels to be a displaced person. It’s worth searching out on the net.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, will look for that! She is marvellous.


  3. I’m going to start studying this anthology in school soon and can’t wait, love Duffy’s poetry and really like these poems as think they are great feminist ideas. The Darwin one made me laugh 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are marvellous! You are so lucky to be studying them as you’ll get even more out of them. I’m very jealous!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Haha, I am glad tbh, otherwise we would have ended up doing no female writers (although I chose a female writer for my coursework!) and think there should be an equal balance! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! Which female writer did you choose for your coursework just out of interest/if you don’t mind me asking?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I went for The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath as I’d read ut recently and really enjoyed it. I’m focussing on symbolism which there’s a lot of in the book! Have you read any of Sylvia Plath’s writing? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Yes in fact I did some coursework at school on it too – bit of a while ago now! – we had to compare a set of books so I chose The Bell Jar and Faces in the Water by Janet Frame and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The Bell Jar is such a rich text (despite its apparent simplicity) so you’ve made a super choice there. Good luck!!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Aw, thank you! That sounds really great to study! It does have so much to talk about, it’s a great novel to read and study! It’s a sad book but I would also call it quite inspirational, so sad that Plath died before she could write more novels. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a great poetry collection that I need to reread soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s super, isn’t it? I love Duffy. Her poetry has depth but is also quite accessible, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, definitely. I first discovered her at school and it was such a welcome change from Shakespeare etc! I do love the older poetry as well but it was nice to read something modern.

        Liked by 1 person

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