Friday, 2 October 2009

The World’s Wife


As soon as I began to read one of the poems the whole hall fell into a sullen silent. That was queer and unprecedented in the history of Poetic Platform of the Southwark Libraries in the United Kingdom; however I was well aware that the silence is a graveyard one. I thought that the poem I was reading was keeping all of them in sombre mood; alas it was the content of the poem that was actually making the audience very uncomfortable.

The title of the poem I was reading during the just concluded Poetic Week of the Southwark Libraries was Frau Freud and it was one of the poems written by Carol Ann Duffy and published alongside others as the ‘The World’s Wife’. A very interesting collection that proved yet again that the choice of Carol Ann Duffy as the first female, and first scot Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom was a choice made on earth and sealed in heaven.

Just as the name of the collection suggested, the poems were written by Duffy to introduce us into the mind of the wives of the famous people we knew only through history. These are women who were defined and dwarfed by the monumental and gigantic achievements of their husbands. What Duffy did in the, ‘The World’s Wife’, was to give them the voice that was denied them by the fame and achievements of their husbands. These are women we have not heard of or would not have heard of if Duffy did not avail us of this opportunity. Some of these women are Mrs. Pilate, Mrs Aesop, Mrs Faust, Mrs Quasimodo and Mrs Darwin.

Through Mrs. Darwin, the readers were informed that the wife of Charles Darwin was not just a house wife who derives joy only in being in the kitchen and at the service of her studious husband. She has got also a great sense of humour and to try that humour she one day told Darwin that a Chimpanzee they met in the zoo reminds her of him.

In Frau Freud, Duffy captured the attention of her readers by reminding them that even though she is a lesbian, she is also a cock-loving one. The reading Of Frau Freud was like a litany of the dick with Duffy listing various names by which the dick is known including ding-a-ling, cock, willy, love-muscle, night-crawler, dong, prick, the rammer, the slammer and many others. It was actually this litany of dicks that captured, held and sustained the attention of my audience and not because I was a good reader with a thick African accent.

Through Delilah, we were able for the first time to hear her own account of what transpired between her and Samson. The bible did not give her the opportunity to defend herself; it is therefore a very big consolation that Duffy did just that in this collection. “He fucked me again until he was sore”, says Delilah of what Samson did to her prior to her cutting off his hair.

In Queen Kong, we saw her lamenting the little size of her husband’s-King Kong-dick even as she confessed that it is still okay with her because, “there were things he could do for me with the sweet finesse of those hands that no gorilla could”, and upon his death, “I held him all night, shaking him like a doll, licking his face, breast, soles of his feet, his little rod”.

The World’s Wife is frankly speaking a very nice attempt by Duffy to bring to life the art of poetry and she succeeded in doing that using the dramatic monologue style. This collection is highly recommended for all lovers of poem. In fact I was literally laughing my ribs off even while in the bus when I was going through this collection.

Cover Photograph Courtesy of Picador.

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