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This review is taken from PN Review 171, Volume 33 Number 1, September - October 2006.

ADVANCES AND RETURNS The Poetry of Carol Ann Duffy: ‘Choosing Tough Words’, edited by Angelica Michelis and Antony Rowland (Manchester University Press) £14.99
SARAH BROOM , Contemporary British and Irish Poetry (Palgrave Macmillan) £14.99
LIZ LOCHHEAD , The Colour of Black & White: Poems 1984–2003 Dreaming Frankenstein & Collected Poems 1967–1984 (Polygon) £8.99 each

 The editors of the book on Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry refer in their introduction to her popularity and standing in contemporary poetry and implicitly raise the question of whether her output so far justifies a whole collection of essays about her work. Their view is emphatically affirmative; they support the claim by indicating the range and complexity of her work and the depths of her explorations of themes which are central in modern British life: sexuality and gender, displacement and alienation and the politics of personal and cultural identity. They argue for a view of her poetry which recognises that, although using traditional forms such as the sonnet and the dramatic monologue, she also experiments with a variety of poetic methods and modes – from collage to vers libre – and shows a characteristically post-modern preoccupation with the nature of language. ‘Choosing tough words’ is not only a matter of sociolinguistic shock but also of artistic integrity.

 For the editors, as for others, Duffy is to the last two decades of the twentieth century what Larkin was to the 1950s and 1960s: acute in her observation and evocation of contemporary landscapes and mores and representative of the deeper structures of feeling and thought.

 The essays by the two editors themselves add credence to their claim. In a discussion of love and masculinity, Antony Rowland provides a perceptive and imaginative analysis of Duffy’s creation of ‘a modern, urban version of the love lyric’ and, like his ...

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