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Little Red Cap

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Callum Airdrie

on 26 April 2010

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Transcript of Little Red Cap

Little Red Cap Stanza 1 At childhood’s end, the houses petered out
into playing fields, the factory, allotments
kept, like mistresses, by kneeling married men,
the silent railway line, the hermit’s caravan,
till you came at last to the edge of the woods.
It was there that I first clapped eyes on the wolf.
the first lines of the poem
"At childhoods end" signal
adolescence little red cap no longer wishes
to be saved by the huntsman
and is already aware of the male world and its erotic desires: "allotments/ kept, like mistresses, by kneeling married men" she wants to explore and
be free from mundane suburban
streets, playing fields and factories
to explore the unknown at "the edge
of the woods" the early lines of this sestet have
a rhythm that matches the images
it is flat, skow, sombr, like the "silent railway line" Sombre means lacking in brightness
or colour, dull Stanza 2 He stood in a clearing, reading his verse out loud
in his wolfy drawl, a paperback in his hairy paw,
red wine staining his bearded jaw. What big ears
he had! What big eyes he had! What teeth!
In the interval, I made quite sure he spotted me,
sweet sixteen, never been, babe, waif, and bought me a drink, it is accentuated in internal rhymes
"drawl....Paw....Jaw" As the wolf poet reads his verse
at the poetry reading, where little
red cap wastes no time in trapping
him, reversal of the fairy tale plot.
Duffy effectively exploits the
saying "sweet sixteen and never
been kissed" replacing "kissed"
with other images so that the
last line of the second stanza
rushes with excitment into the third this stanza in particular
could be linked to Duffys
life because she was in a
relationship with a much older man
who was a succesful poet
and she was 17 the idea that the wolf is a older man
could come from the red wine stained bear;
red wine typically associated with older men Stanza 3 my first. You might ask why. Here’s why. Poetry.
The wolf, I knew, would lead me deep into the woods,
away from home, to a dark tangled thorny place
lit by the eyes of owls. I crawled in his wake,
my stockings ripped to shreds, scraps of red from my blazer
snagged on twig and branch, murder clues. I lost both shoes
why is little Red-Cap so interested
in an older man? "poetry", we are told She wants not only "sraps of red",
a metaphor for sexual experience ,
but to be initiated intro poetry, its
mystique and power- that "dark tangled
thorny place" She wants to Learn wisdom
through "the eyes of owls".
She wants to know the pleasure
of the text- theory of which Duffy,
with her background in philosophy
and semiotics, would be aware Semiotics means a study of human
communicatios through signs Stanza 4 but got there, wolf’s lair, better beware. Lesson one that night,
breath of the wolf in my ear, was the love poem.
I clung till dawn to his thrashing fur, for
what little girl doesn’t dearly love a wolf?1
Then I slid from between his heavy matted paws
and went in search of a living bird – white dove – In the woods she leaves behind
"stockings ripped to shreds", "murder
clues" reminiscent of the victims of child
molesters. By the fourth Stanza she has entered the wolfs
laire. the Staccato chant in the first line, "got there
wolf's laire, better beware", is a warning. when little Red-Cap goes
in search of " a living bird -
white dove- ", a metaphor
for her own poetic voice,
it is gobbled up in "one bite,
dead" by the wolf " how nice ,
breakfast in bed, he said" a whit dove is a sign
of innocence and peace Her only sustenance is the wolfs books ,
in which she finds "warm, beating, frantic
, winged" words. There is music here, too,
but also blood, and the bird seems trapped
or cage. the image of the bird as
her own voice is repeated
throughout the poem Stanza 5 which flew, straight, from my hands to his hope mouth.
One bite, dead. How nice, breakfast in bed, he said,
licking his chops. As soon as he slept, I crept to the back
of the lair, where a whole wall was crimson, gold, aglow with books.
Words, words were truly alive on the tongue, in the head,
warm, beating, frantic, winged; music and blood. But then I was young – and it took ten years
in the woods to tell that a mushroom
stoppers the mouth of a buried corpse, that birds
are the uttered thought of trees, that a greying wolf
howls the same old song at the moon, year in, year out,
season after season, same rhyme, same reason. I took an axe
only after ten years in the wolfs laire
does experience teach little Red- Cap
that nothing will change Duffy was in a reltion ship withh her older man
for ten years she must have experience the
same thing She is now grown waoman, but her poetry,
her self expression, will never be properly heard.
The metaphor for this living death is violen-
"a mushroom/ stoppers the mouth of a burried
corpse The "greying wolf" who "howls
the same old song at the moon,
year in, year out. Again we hear the same weary,flat rhtym of the first stanza
Finally little Red-Cap becomes desperate .
the Caesura inthe middle of line 36 increases
the tension as she is engulfed by fury " i took an
axe" Stanza 6 to a willow to see how it wept. I took an axe to a salmon
to see how it leapt. I took an axe to the wolf
as he slept, one chop, scrotum to throat, and saw
the glistening, virgin white of my grandmother’s bones.
I filled his old belly with stones. I stitched him up.
Out of the forest I come with my flowers, singing, all alone The enjambment takes the reader
into the last stanza, in which Little
Red-Cap splits open the wolf, "scrotum
to throat" It is a cathartic deliverance.
revealed are her "Grandmothers
bones", a link to the matriarch and
the female line Released from the her stultifying existence,
little Red-Cap has found her voice, like the bird
"singing", and is free to leave the forest in
splendid isolation Enjambment means in poetry when
a line runs on into the next lin, without
paus, so carrying the thought with it.
see also run-on line she could have got her innocence back from freeinmg
the bird Cathartic means that
its really good, it gives the
feeling of being absolutly
great Themes Sexuality
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