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'Valentine' by Carol Ann Duffy

An exploration of the poem

Hannah Antonio

on 24 February 2013

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Transcript of 'Valentine' by Carol Ann Duffy

Valentine Not a red rose or a satin heart. I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. It promises light
like the careful undressing of love. Here. It will blind you with tears
like a lover. It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief. I am trying to be truthful. Not a cute card or a kissogram. I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are. Take it. Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like. Lethal. Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife. In the first line, the poet rejects traditional gifts associated with love and Valentine's Day. An onion is a surprising and unexpected gift. The poet uses a metaphor comparing the onion to a moon, a traditional symbol in love poetry. Brown paper refers to the skin of the onion.
It is a plain wrapping for her unusual gift, far removed from the fancy wrapping of traditional gifts. 'Undressing' : Love has many layers – deeper emotion may be felt as you peel away the layers. The simile suggests a physical relationship. One word sentence; she is insistent. Literally, onions can make your eyes water.
This symbolises the grief and pain that relationships can cause. The poet rejects false displays of affection. Taste of the onion is strong and difficult to erase – just like memory of a passionate relationship lasts after the relationship itself has ended. Smell of the onion is strong and difficult to erase – just like memory of a deep relationship may last after the relationship itself has ended; Duffy’s word choice (‘knife’) indicates that the speaker threatens violence in the final line. This can be referred to as an extended metaphor; this means the poet uses the metaphor throughout the poem. This is a direct command. The image won't stay still; this could be because the tears of the lover are distorting it. Literary device - personification Honest and direct; not trying to hide her feelings from her lover. Literary device - alliteration Instead she opts to give a symbol of her honest love. Literary device - repetition. Literary device - alliteration
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