From the Publisher
“[Duffy] offers us the past as it could have been. . . . [Her] project recalls the poems of the Americans Ai and Pamela White Hadas, but the élan of this volume sets it apart, the characters (and poems) triumphant.” The New Yorker
“Duffy is one of the freshest and bravest talents to emerge in British poetry--any poetry--for years.” Eavan Boland, The Independent on Sunday (London)
“These thirty poems vibrate with intense colloquialisms, physicality, energy, freshness, and cheek. . . . They leap off the page even in a silent reading. . . . The best are inventive, subversive, and written with great rhythmical and rhyming dash.” Anthony Thwaite, The Sunday Telegraph (London)
The New Yorker
[Duffy] offers us the past as it could have been. . . . [Her] project recalls the poems of the Americans Ai and Pamela White Hadas, but the élan of this volume sets it apart, the characters (and poems) triumphant.
The Independent on Sunday (London) Eavan Boland
Duffy is one of the freshest and bravest talents to emerge in British poetry--any poetry--for years.
The Sunday Telegraph (London) Anthony Thwaite
These thirty poems vibrate with intense colloquialisms, physicality, energy, freshness, and cheek. . . . They leap off the page even in a silent reading. . . . The best are inventive, subversive, and written with great rhythmical and rhyming dash.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The voices of Mrs. Tiresias, Mrs. Faust, Mrs. Quasimodo and other wives wittily recast myth and history from a woman's point of view in the pages of Manchester-based Duffy's fifth collection. Self-contained Penelope is not waiting for her Odysseus; frustrated Mrs. Sisyphus is married to a workaholic; Pygmalion's statue, tired of being pestered by her groping suitor, "changed tack/ grew warm, like candle wax/ kissed back"--and after sex gets dumped. But while Duffy's revisionist dramatic monologues are rife with clever twists, this material has been well mined by such poets as Alta, Margaret Atwood and Alicia Ostriker. Even references to Viagra, sheep-cloning and Monica Lewinsky seem an updating of Transformations (1971), Anne Sexton's deadpan fairy tales studded with cultural references, with the poems trapped in a similarly polarized conception of gender relations. Thus Thetis is brutalized in a new way each time she changes form--man is cross-bow to her albatross, charmer to her snake, fisherman to her mermaid--and to Queen Herod, the Christ child is simply a threat to her infant girl: he's "The Wolf. The Rip. The Rake. The Rat./The Heartbreaker. The Ladykiller. Mr. Right." The luckiest in love is Mrs. Beast, married to a devoted creature that's hung like a mule, and just as hardworking: "And if his snot and trotters fouled/ my damask sheets, why, then, he'd wash them. Twice." The flippant tone elicits chuckles, but one imagines these characters would've come a longer way by now, baby. (Apr.) FYI: Duffy's anthology Time's Tidings: Greeting the 21st Century includes 50 contemporary poets, each of whom is represented by a poem of his or her own on "time," and by a favorite poem on the same subject. (Anvil [Dufour, dist.], $18.95 paper 160p ISBN 0-85646-313-2). Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
In her fifth volume of poetry, British poet Duffy presents to us the world of the liminal wife. Here we do not find annals of Victoria or Medea or Eleanor Roosevelt, but rather catch an imaginative glimpse into the lives of real and mythic women whose stories were not exactly their own: Mrs. Faust, Queen Herod, and Frau Freud, to name a few. Each of the 30 or so women featured in Duffy's collection regales us with her side of her famous partner's story, and the result is often insightful and always entertaining. Duffy's verse is at once tight and resonant, her language colloquial and engaging, her rhymes refreshing. While a great strength of the volume is its thematic unity, these poems are better swallowed in short snatches, for the tone of the wife's lament is often so consistent that the uniqueness of each woman's plight gets debased. For instance, Mrs. Tiresias's dilemma ("All I know is this: / he went out for his walk a man / and came home female") differs quite a bit from Eurydice's discomfort in hell ("the one place you'd think a girl would be safe / from the kind of a man who follows her round / writing poems"), yet they come to us in a strikingly similar voice. Reminiscent of Sexton's Transformations (1971), these works take the plots of some classic tales and give them a wry, mod twist. For lovers of myth, or just a good tell, this dark and darkly comic volume has much to offer.