Carol Ann Duffy: Poems

Memory and Retrospection in Duffy's Poetry 11th Grade

In both "Before You Were Mine" and "Brothers," Carol Ann Duffy uses descriptions of memory as a means of re-living past family life. Throughout "Before You Were Mine," Duffy writes about her mother, and imagines her life before motherhood. This poem is designed as Duffy’s recollection of her mother through her mother’s own memories, and her recognition of all she was before the responsibilities and commitment on having children came into her life. Duffy seeks to reanimate and capture what her mother was like when she was younger, and does so by re-living her past through imaginings of what her mother's memories might have been. We get the impression that these memories are evoked by looking at photographs, an idea which is particularly prominent in the first stanza, when Duffy describes her mother laughing with her friends, likening her dress blowing around her legs to ‘Marilyn.’ She even speaks directly to her mother - ‘I’m ten years away from the corner you laugh on’ - to create a more personal, conversational mood within the poem. The tone of the poem is one of admiration and affection; after all, she looks back on her mother's life with fondness.

Throughout the four stanzas, Duffy jumps between different times in the past,...

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