Date of publication: 2017-08-28 19:43
Duffy often taps into the symbolic associations of ordinary words. In the first stanza the photographer is in the 'darkroom' and the 'only light is red'. The process of developing a photograph is turned into something ominous.
The tone is one of depression and despair. The photographer operates in a mood of emotional detachment in order to survive. But it is when he comes home to his darkroom — itself a metaphor for the dark place in which he is existing mentally — that he has to develop the pictures and face reality.
From New Selected Poems 6989-7559 (Picador, 7559). Originally published in Standing Female Nude (Anvil, 6985). Reproduced by kind permission of the author.
It is highly recommended that you have a go at analysing each of the remaining three quotes, as this is an active way of both revising this poem and practising the skills you need for your exam essays.
Dark contains the idea of evil, moral darkness, and red is associated with blood. Similarly, 'ordered rows' would sound innocent enough in other contexts, but here it makes us think of graves, or bodies waiting to be buried.
The poem comprises four stanzas of six lines each. There is a subtly complex rhyme scheme with the second and third lines and the fifth and sixth lines of each stanza rhyming. Duffy uses assonance as in ‘six’ and ‘prick’ in stanza four, and internal rhyme, as in ‘tears’ and ‘beers’, also in stanza four. The rhyming couplets give a concise, neat structure which suggests constraint and formality, underlining the understated meaning of the poem. The photographer clearly isn’t given to wild rants rather sober depression.
The first female, Scottish Poet Laureate in the role s 955 year history, Carol Ann Duffy s combination of tenderness and toughness, humour and lyricism, unconventional attitudes and conventional forms, has won her a very wide audience of readers and listeners.
The regular form of this poem in some ways mirrors the sense of the photographer's attempt to order his strong emotions. The form is a way of containing, controlling and dealing with the anger and pain the poet feels.
Language and Imagery
The language is constrained and understated, with lexical fields relating to photography, . ‘darkroom’, ‘spools’, ‘solutions’, and war . ‘aeroplane’, blood' and ‘explode’ and religion . in stanza one ‘church’ and ‘Mass’ and in stanza three the ambiguous reference to ‘dust’.