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Quickdraw by Carol Ann Duffy

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GC Howard

on 10 March 2014

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Transcript of Quickdraw by Carol Ann Duffy

by Carol Ann Duffy
Relationship type:
Romance - but damaged
What it's about:
The breakdown of a relationship explored through two lovers phoning and texting.
Painted as a battle - using lot of Western references
The title: Quickdraw
Metaphor of a gunfight used for the argument - rapid exchanges of fire being insults and hurtful comments
4 stanzas of free verse but enjambment makes them irregular and unpredictable - does this reflect the fragmented nature of their relationship?
Extended metaphor of guns and Western motifs
I wear the two, the mobile and the landline phones,

like guns, slung from the pockets on my hips. I’m all

alone. You ring, quickdraw, your voice a pellet

in my ear, and hear me groan.

You’ve wounded me.

Next time, you speak after the tone. I twirl the phone,

then squeeze the trigger of my tongue, wide of the mark.

You choose your spot, then blast me

through the heart.

And this is love, high noon, calamity, hard liqour

in the old Last Chance saloon. I show the mobile

to the sheriff; in my boot, another one’s

concealed. You text them both at once. I reel.

Down on my knees, I fumble for the phone,

read the silver bullets of your kiss. Take this …

and this … and this … and this … and this …

Speaker uses a simile to compare the phones to guns - they both have the ability to hurt? (Harsh words by texts etc)
Enjambment forces emphasis on 'alone' --> highlights the speaker's loneliness
Directly addressing the lover
Metaphor of a bullet ("pellet")
= Words are injuring the speaker
Dramatic pause between the stanzas - between the impact and the effects of the 'shot'
---> This lengthens the hurt felt
Metaphor of being hurt physically by the words on the phone - links to the Western style gunfight
The speaker ignores the next call - their lover goes to voicemail
Twirl the phone:
Image of a gunslinger spinning their guns with a swagger
OR are they twirling the phone cord out of anxiety?
Trigger of my tongue:
Alliteration emphasises the metaphor
The plosive 't' makes it sound even harsher
Wide of the mark:
The speaker is trying to be hurtful back but fails - a clue to how they still feel about their lover?
- The lover carefully chose the most hurtful insult to be cruel
Another plosive - 'bl' - to highlight the harshness of the insults
Is this type of exchange usual for the speaker?
Typical "final showdown" time in Westerns - shows a make or break situation
ALSO name of a famous Western featuring a classic shootout
Calamity = disaster
ALSO Calamity Jane is another classic Western film

The title character had a romance with a gunslinger: Has the speaker similarly got involved with someone they shouldn't?
Hard liquor:
What cowboy and rejected lover might turn to!
A metaphor for "Last chance" - shows the desperation of the quarrel

These bars existed in the Wild West to show the last place you could buy booze from before entering dry counties

"Old" last chance saloon:
Is this not the first time their relationship has been on the brink like this?
Sheriff: The law
Who is this?
Another person? A mutual friend maybe?
Or Duffy herself?
The caesura creates a short sentence to show the speaker's panic.
The speaker sounds doubled over in pain, defeated
The speaker has changed from the cocksure swagger at the start, reduced to a "fumble", they are a mess!
"Silver bullets"
in culture represent something that provides an immediate solution to a problem

Here the "silver bullet" is a kiss.

This may provide a short term fix but may not be realistic in the long run...

ALSO a reference back to the Westerns as The Lone Ranger used silver bullets to defeat enemies
Repetition of "this"
- Firing out kisses like punches or shots from a gun. Their whole relationship is associated with this threatening imagery.

Final notes:
Written in
present tense
We share in the action as it progresses
- long 'ee' sound emphasises those drawn-out moments when time seems to slow down
'concealed' 'reel' 'knees' 'read'
The breakdown of communication and the impact of modern technology - mobile phones and text messaging - on relationships.

Compare with:
The Manhunt

P. 53 in anthologies...
Full transcript