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Daniel's Duck by Kerry Hardie
Transcript of Daniel's Duck by Kerry Hardie
The children were sitting to their dinners.
Us too - drinking tea, hardly noticing
the child's quiet slide from his chair,
his small absorbed body before the duck's body,
the duck changing - feral, live -
arrowing up out of black sloblands
with gleam of a river
falling away below.
Born: 1951 in Singapore and grew up in Co. Down.
She worked for the BBC in Belfast and Derry. She was deeply affected by the Troubles. She says of this time 'I became fascinated with people who found themselves in a hard place with how they reacted to this place. She focused on how people adapted to their new realities or how they became broken by them.
She won the National Poetry Prize in 1996.
She now lives in Kilkenny with her husband.
This poem is taken from her book of poetry titled
The Sky Didn't Fall (2003
). Much of this work deals with grief and loss and the contrast between the outside world and our inner feelings.
What do you think the poem might be about?
Have you ever found a dead or dying animal or bird or had a pet that died? How did it make you feel?
I held out the shot mallard, she took it from me,
looped its neck-string over a drawer of the dresser.
The children were looking on, half-caught.
Then the kitchen life - warm, lit, glowing -
moved forward, taking in the dead bird,
and its coldness, its wildness, were leaching away.
Compare and Contrast
How is the family kitchen described?
How is the dead duck described?
How do the children react?
Daniel is the only member of the family that is interested in the duck. Why do you think this is
How does he imagine the duck?
Then the duck - dead again - hanging from the drawer-knob,
the green head, brown neck running into the breast,
the intricate silvery-greyness of the back;
the wings, their white bars and blue flashes,
the feet, their snakey, orange scaliness, small claws, piteous webbing,
the yellow beak, blooded,
the whole like a weighted sack -
all that downward-dragginess of death
The poet takes great care to describe the duck. Which description creates the strongest image?
Identify the simile used in this stanza and comment on its effect. Also consider the use of alliteration in the last line.
He hovered, took a step forward, a step back,
something appeared in his face, some knowledge
of a place where he stood, the world stilled,
the lit streaks of sunrise running off red
into the high bowl of morning.
This is an important moment in the poem. Daniel gains knowledge - 'the world stilled'. What is it that Daniel is learning?
How does the poet emphasise this new understanding?
She watched him, moving to touch, his hand out:
What is it, Daniel, do you like the duck?
He turned as though caught on the act,
saw the gentleness in her face and his body loosened.
I thought there was water on it -
he was finding the words one by one,
holding them out, to see would they do us -
but there isn't.
He added this on, going small with relief
that his wing-drag of was enough.
Daniel feels as though he is 'caught in the act'. What is your understanding of this line?
Having read the poem, compare Daniel's reaction with those of the other people's reactions in the poem.