Valentine By Carol Ann Duffy Complete the spider diagram thinking about the concept of Valentine's Day. Write down as many words/phrases as you can that sum the whole thing up! Cards Hearts Valentine’s Day Romance Chocolates Flower Does this poem fulfil our expectations of a poem titled ‘Valentine’? Why? 1. What are the things that are normally associated with Valentine's day that Carol Ann Duffy rejects? Why do you think she rejects them? 2. Instead of these things, what object does Carol Ann Duffy choose to represent love? What is surprising about this? 3. List all of the words/phrases that seem out of place in a Valentine poem. EG ‘tears’ ‘grief’ Why do you think that they are included? What is the poem about? • On the surface – it’s about the giving of an unusual present for Valentine’s day. • Really it’s an exploration of love and the nature of relationships between two people. • the clichéd ideas of love and expresses how her speaker’s love is: original, clever, intense, romantic, emotional, truthful, fierce. • The poem is universal: it could be any lover to any beloved as there is no indication of the sex of either the “I” or the “you”. How is the presentation of love developed? • The most important thing to mention and refer to when discussing this poem is that it is an EXTENDED METAPHOR; the poet compares her love and the relationship to an onion, this image is extended throughout the whole poem drawing similarities throughout. How is the presentation of love developed? • The speaker of the poem offers her lover an onion as a Valentine gift. • She gives an onion because it represents her love in many different ways. • She continues through the poem comparing different aspects of the onion to different aspects of her love. What is Duffy saying? • Many layers which promise a joyful future. ‘it is a moon wrapped in brown paper / It promises light’. • However Duffy also points out that true and passionate love can be painful ‘blind you with tears / like a lover’ she is really saying that she offers her lover an onion because it is like her love – it can cause pain and upset. What is Duffy saying? • comparisons between the rings of an onion and a wedding ring. ‘platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring.’ This suggests that the longer the relationship continues the more serious it will become and perhaps will then lead to the ultimate commitment of marriage. • However there is also a suggestion that if something ‘shrinks’ it becomes less valuable and perhaps hints at the end of the relationship. • The end of the poem is not as positive as the opening when there is a suggestion of the end of the relationship ‘cling to your knife’. What is Duffy saying? • She points out that a powerful love is very difficult to forget and that just like the lasting smell and taste of the pungent onion a relationship will remain firmly in the mind of the partners, perhaps even long after it has ended. ‘its fierce kiss will stay on your lips, ‘Its scent will cling to your fingers’ Tone. Summary • The tone of the poem is genuine, confident and intimate. However, seems to change towards the end to a note of warning and seems to admit some weakness. • Duffy manages to make the poem sound like a spoken voice, despite the fact that she structures her poem around an elaborate and imaginative extended metaphor. What does the tone of the poem reveal about the poet’s attitude? • The TONE is the way a speaker would say/read the poem. • The tone can reveal a great deal about the speaker’s attitude towards the subject, in this case Valentines and love. • The tone is established through the language and structure. • The tone is DIRECT and SINCERE. The poet is making a heartfelt declaration of love to her lover, which begins in a POSITIVE manner but develops a more SINISTER feel as the potential failure of the relationship is considered. What does the tone of the poem reveal about the poet’s attitude? • rejecting stereotypical Valentine’s presents because they do not convey the true strength of the relationship. • Thus the poem has POWERFUL feeling as the poet explains all the reasons that the onion is a more appropriate gift. Tone • Creates sense of an intimate conversation by using the pronouns “I” and “you” • starting lines in the middle of a sentence as if a conversation has been taking place before, for example, the first line starts with “Not a red rose...” • present tense as if this conversation is taking place as we read it; “I give”, “I am”. • She further uses the words “here” and “take” as if she were handing something over to someone who is present. Tone • 'I give you an onion' is a statement. It is delivered in a matter-of-fact way. But after all, an onion seems a fairly unromantic symbol of love. Tone • uses commands. • “Here” and “Take it” - the speaker is telling her lover what to do. He/she is the one in control. He/she doesn't even need to use more than one or two words. Tone • The referral to physical love - 'the careful undressing of love' - is tender, while 'its fierce kiss' is more passionate. Tone • He/she says that too much commitment and possessiveness can kill a relationship: `'a wedding-ring if you like. Lethal.” Seems a bit more sinister and shows how relationships can fail. How does Duffy use structure? • The structure of a poem is the way in which a poet chooses to set the poem out, this includes rhyme schemes, rhythm patterns, word or sentence patterns and the way the lines are laid out. How does Duffy use structure? • Notice how Duffy structures these lines to emphasise that she does not approve of these types of gifts. ‘Not a red rose or satin heart.’ & ‘Not a cute card or kissogram’ • In both cases the word ‘not’ is stressed because it appears first in the line (notice it is also the very first word of the poem!). Duffy adds impact to her point by repeating the structure of the lines, which is identical and also by having these lines standing alone in the poem. How does Duffy use structure? • Also Duffy is making a very personal and direct declaration of love. Duffy uses short lines to emphasise the emotional plea; you can almost hear the speaker’s voice as they offer their gift of love in the lines ‘Here’. ‘Take it’, ‘I am trying to be truthful’. How does Duffy use structure? • The whole poem is written in FREE VERSE, which means that there is no obvious rhyme scheme or rhythm. This is an important choice because it echoes the naturalness of speech and their relationship. Form • Uses single isolated lines to show why she rejects conventional Valentine gifts: “Not a red rose or a satin heart...Not a cute card or a kissogram.” Why not? Because each has long ceased to be original and has been sent hundreds of times to hundreds of lovers. This lover is more special than all these others, and so deserves something different. Form • Duffy writes colloquially, so single words or phrases work as sentences: “Here...Take it...Lethal.” The ends of the lines mark pauses, and most of them have a punctuation mark to show this. The stanza breaks mark longer pauses, and allow specific lines to stand along, notably “I am trying to be truthful”; this is a very honest poem. Form • The form of this poem is irregular in that the lines are of varied length and the rhymes come in unusual places, to stress a particular word, such as “lethal”. How does the language chosen by the poet reflect the message of the poem? • Duffy is very careful to choose words and phrases and images that express exactly what she feels. • (Remember that in poetry you should always think about the deeper meanings of words, the connotations (ideas associated with them) and be looking for examples of effective figurative language). How does the language chosen by the poet reflect the message of the poem? • The early part of the poem suggests the positive aspects of the relationship. Think about the words ‘promise’ and ‘light’, words linked with good things. Also look at how Duffy suggests the ‘undressing’ of lovers through the image of removing the outer layers of the onion. How does the language chosen by the poet reflect the message of the poem? • As the poem progresses there is more focus on both the strength and power of the relationship; ‘fierce’’ ‘possessive’ ‘faithful’ , yet also the pain and tears that it can bring; ‘’blind’ ‘tears’ ‘wobbling photo of grief’. At the close of the poem Duffy’s choice of language and image suggests that the intensity of the lovers may well be too much for the relationship, forcing an ending, Lethal’. • Think about the last line ‘cling to your knife’, this image suggests one partner cutting the relationship and therefore ending it. Imagery • Suggests that Duffy is criticising conventional ideal and empty gestures of love. She promises her lover, and the reader, that her love is more original, more honest and more true. • Duffy turns a very ordinary object, the onion, into an unusual symbol of love, and makes it appear to be a much more appropriate Valentine gift than many of the more traditional ones. Imagery • The traditional symbol of the moon is concealed within the onion. • The light which it promises may be both its literal brightness (the onion is pale and white under its brown skin) and a more metaphorical meaning. • The removal of the paper outer layers suggests “undressing”. Imagery • The onion is like a lover because it makes one cry. • The verb “blind” may also suggest the traditional idea of love being blind, and also the more negative association of one being blinded by love. • The onion reflects a distorted image of anyone who looks at it, as a crying person looking in the mirror would see a “wobbling image”. • The flavour of the onion is persistent, so that this taste is like a kiss which lasts. “possessive and faithful...for as long as we are.” Imagery • The onion is a series of rings, each smaller than the other until one finds a ring the size of a wedding ring – “platinum” because of the colour. • Note the phrase “if you like” where the lover is given a choice, or a proposal of marriage. • There is, however, a vague threat in the suggestion that the onion is lethal, as its scent “cling[s] to your knife”. Imagery • The poem appeals to the senses especially of sight (striking visual images of light, shape and colour), touch (the “fierce kiss”) and smell (the “scent” clinging to “your fingers” and the “knife”). • The poem seems at first to be rather comical because of its unusual imagery, but, in fact, becomes a very serious analysis of love. In what ways is the onion like the speaker’s love? It is round like a moon The moon is associated with romance Its skin is white It promises light – light is associated with truth, faith, beauty etc You peel an onion Lovers undress each other Causes tears Causes tears Its taste is strong and lasting The speaker’s kiss is possessive and fierce Onions have rings Relationships are often symbolised by a ring The smell of onions will stay with So will this speaker’s love The Onion V Love/Relationships ‘It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. It promises light.’ The ‘brown paper’ is the outer skin of the onion, the comparison also supports the ideas of a gift. The reference to the ‘moon’ is common in romantic poetry, it ‘promises light’ like the moon, and perhaps, like the optimism at the beginning of a new relationship. The Onion V Love/Relationships ‘It will blind you with tears like a lover.’ The Onion V Love/Relationships ‘It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief.’ The Onion V Love/Relationships ‘Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips, possessive and faithful.’ The Onion V Love/Relationships ‘Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring if you like.’ The Onion V Love/Relationships ‘Lethal Its scent will cling to your fingers, Cling to your knife.’ Begins with a negative Shows the deliberate decision to reject more traditional gifts Not a red rose or a satin heart. precise actions Use first and second I ofgive youperson an onion. Short sentences reflect deliberate, makes the poem seem personal. She is talking directly to her lover: the recipient of the gift Statement of fact It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. It promises light the Thelike onion with its careful This is the first of a brown outer skin series of images ofcomparing love. the onion andundressing white flesh is compared to a moon to more conventional symbols of love It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. It promises light Thelike promise of light could be: the careful •romantic moonlight undressing of love. •Light touches/gentleness •Light hearted promises and behaviour at the start of a relationship It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. It promises light like the careful Peeling back the layers of an onion represents undressing gradually getting to know aof newlove. lover and also the literal undressing before making love Here. It will blind you with tears like a lover. It will make your One word sentence. Deliberately reaffirms the reflection giving of the onion. Perhaps suggests/anticipates scepticism a wobbling photo of on the behalf of the recipient/reader Here. It will blind you with tears like a lover. It will make your reflection Using the well-known ability of onions to make people cry Duffy introduces a negative side to love. aonion wobbling photo of it causes The is an appropriate gift because tears just like a lover can I am trying to be truthful. confirms Duffy’s Not a cute card or a Negative again intention to shows the rejection kissogram. provide what she of conventional gifts sees as an appropriate symbol of love Again short statements show Duffy’s confidence and belief in what she is saying The lingering taste of an onion represents a lover’s kiss. Is this a positive image? Repetition reaffirms her intention I give you an onion. Its fierce kiss will stay on Alliteration of hissing your lips, sounds suggests the sound of a kiss possessive and faithful as we are, At odds with traditional romantic ideas –suggests the for as long as we are. relationship will not last forvever. Again Duffy is rejecting conventional ideas in an attempt to be “truthful” Short definite statement using imperative. Almost a challenge for the recipient/reader to accept the gift and therefore accept/understand Duffy’s unconventional view Take it. Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding- ring, Onion rings represent wedding rings. The if you like. Negative word choice? way onion rings get Suggests marriage is “shrinking” one’s horizons/opportunities progressively smaller suggests the way commitment is gradually made. Take it. Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding- ring, if you Duffy like.doesn’t need/totally agree with Suggests the comparison –humouring the reader/recipient by satisfying the need for traditional symbols Is she suggesting that similarly marriage is a concession to conventionality? Stark, single word statement. Negative view of love? Suggestion that too much commitment can be damaging to love or the relationship? Lethal. Its scent will cling to suggests your fingers, Repetition how difficult it is to escape the smell and cling to your knife. therefore the relationship Lethal. Its scent will cling to your fingers, cling to your knife. The permanence of this could be seen as positive. Love stays but the image of an onion smell lingering is unpleasant and to end with the word “knife” is disturbing. Love/relationships can be damaged by being too “clingy”? Note: Short statements suggest confidence and surety in her opinions The direct address using first and second person make the poem conversational The poem does not have a regular structure. This reflects her unconventional views and suggests she is also rejecting traditional forms of love poetry. What is the tone of the poem? Mocking? Serious? A combination? What do you think Duffy’s message is?