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'Wintering' by Carol Ann Duffy: Analysis

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Richard Bramley

on 27 March 2014

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Transcript of 'Wintering' by Carol Ann Duffy: Analysis

'Wintering' by Carol Ann Duffy
What Is The Poem About?
Speaker And Voice
The poem seems to be about a relationship that the character has experienced and that is still ongoing. It shows that love is not always a happy thing. We can see this in the line, 'that trick we have of turning love to pain'. This suggests that being in a loving relationship normally ends in people being hurt, brokenhearted and with regrets.The title 'Wintering' has negative connatations such as being cold. It is written in the present continuous tense implying that the relationship is ongoing. The lexis choice throughout is largely negative, reiterating that the relationship in question is not entirely positve by any stretch of the imagination.
We see three themes which are evident in this poem:
The theme 'love' is shown throughout the poem. For example during the quote 'You come and go, your footprints like a love letter below', which suggests that the character's love is fading away but their memories are still with them and will seemingly, always be. This particular example, so too, adds to the aforementioned theme of depression. The poem is based during winter, this is shown in the title 'Wintering' which clearly suggests a cold, bitter atmosphere. We are presented another example of this in the form of pathetic fallacy, seen in, 'I walk on ice, it grimaces, then breaks'. However, Spring is later used to reflect the 'good patches' of this eternal whirlwind relationship.
I believe the speaker and voice of the poem is Carol Ann Duffy herself, as she noticeably writes in the first person. Therefore, she seems to be speaking on behalf of her own experience but the poem also manages to speak for many other people as well. This is perfectly conveyed in the line 'I hear your words, they play inside my head like broken chords'. This shows that she is speaking about herself but the assumption is that many other people can easily relate to it.
Carol Ann Duffy is a "scottish poet and playwright, whose poems address issues such as oppression, gender and violence." - according to her biography. Yet, in 'Wintering' only hints of these themes can be detected however, interestingly, later in her biography she is reported to have said:

"Like the sand and the oyster, it's a creative irritant. In each poem, I'm trying to reveal a truth, so it can't have a fictional beginning."

And I believe that this poem is a prime example of Duffy giving us a 'truth', perhaps in this instance, of her own past.

The garden tenses, lies face down, bereaved,
has wept its leaves.
The Latin names of plants blur like belief.

I walk on ice, it grimaces, then breaks.
All my mistakes
are frozen in the tight lock of my face.

Bare trees hold out their arms, beseech, entreat,
cannot forget.
The clouds sag with the burden of their weight.

The wind screams at the house, bitter, betrayed.
The sky is flayed,
the moon is a fingernail, bitten and frayed.
Another night, the smuggling in of snow.
You come and go,
your footprints like a love letter below.
All day, slow funeral have ploughed the rain.
We've done again
that trick we have of turning love to pain.

Grey fades to black. The stars begin their lies,
nothing to lose.
I wear a shroud of cloud beneath my clothes.

Night clenches in its fist the moon, a stone.
I wish it thrown.
I clutch the small stiff body of my phone.

Dawn mocks me with the gibberish of birds.
I hear your words,
they play inside my head like broken chords.
A Closer Look at Duffy's Techniques...
All day, slow funerals have ploughed the rain.
We've done it again
that trick we have of turning love to pain.
Caesura connotes dragging and a slow pace for the beginning of the poem is emphasised by the use of the actual word 'slow' straight after the caesura.
'Ploughed' brings images of farming into the reader's mind. The themes of 'death' and 'depression' allow the reader to conjure dry fields of dead weeds which adds to the ominous atmosphere of the poem.
This is pathetic fallacy, which is where weather is used to reflect the mood of the poem. In this case the rain reminds the reader of cold, shivering and someone who is lonely or lost. This could be the case in this relationship.
The word 'trick' is also very carefully chosen. This suggests that the relationship is not going too well and may even be on the verge of breaking down.
So, In Conclusion...
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