Carol Ann Duffy: Poems Quotes


"I might take my eye out and swallow it
to bring some attention to myself. Winston did.
His name was in the paper. For the time being
I make noises to annoy them and then I go BASTARDS."

Narrator, Stanza 4, "And How Are We Today?"

As can be presumed from the other stanzas, the narrator of this poem is deemed to have mental issues, although it is never directly stated what the issue is. As someone who is considering taking out his own eyes and swallowing them, it is safe to assume that whatever the issue may be, it is severe. The title of the poem, "And How Are We Today?," is a common question that doctors or psychiatrists ask their patients and this implies that the narrator is having these thoughts while he is at a doctor's appointment. Knowing this, it is interesting to be given an inside perspective of how a mentally unstable person thinks, in a normal, everyday situation such as an appointment. While it is clear that the narrator has mental issues and abnormal thoughts, this quote shows an underlying sense of rationality that the narrator still contains. In the second line of this quote, the narrator explains to the reader why he wants to take out his eyes (because he wants attention) and in the last line he is aware that he is being annoying, but he chooses to do it anyways. While these explanations may not make complete sense to the readers, these explanations make sense to the narrator, which just further supports the idea that he is mentally not well.

"Six hours like this for a few francs.
Belly nipple arse in the window light,
he drains the color from me."

Madame, Lines 1-3, "Standing Female Nude"

Madame, the narrator, is a nude model and this poem is set during one of her modeling sessions. Madame is not overly satisfied with being a nude model and one of the reasons for this is that she does not make much money. In the first line she notes that after six hours of having to stand still, naked, while the artist paints her, she will only receive a few francs (equal to a few American dollars). In line 3 she notes that "he" who is the artist, "drains the color from [her]." This could possibly mean a few things. First of all, the narrator could be saying that the artist was not very talented and that when he painted the woman, he did not do an accurate job at representing Madame and he painted her to be paler than she actually is. Another way to interpret this quote would be that the artist is choosing to apply his own details and interpret the painting how he sees fit, thus intentionally altering this woman's appearance to his own liking. One more way that this line could be interpreted is that the model felt embarrassed or uncomfortable in her situation, so when the painter would lay his eyes upon her naked body, the color would drain from her (just as people go pale when placed in frightful situations).

"The bourgeoisie will coo
at such an image of a river-whore. They call it Art."

Madame, Lines 6-7, "Standing Female Nude"

The narrator, Madame, believes that the bourgeoisie (middle class) will one day see the naked painting of her in a museum and she can imagine the people cooing at her image. Perhaps one of the most important parts of this poem, in line 7 the narrator states that this painting is "an image of a river-whore" and the bourgeoisie call it "Art." To better explain, the painting is simply a portrayal of a naked woman, an image that most societies would deem inappropriate for the eyes of young people and any lady who would appear naked out in public would be charged with public indecency. Yet this painting (which is still an image of a naked woman) is praised because some people consider it to be "Art." There is additionally a sense of irony in the fact that so many people, and a museum, will view this painting of a naked woman as something that should be appreciated. What these people are failing to accept or realize is that the woman this painting is based upon is "a river-whore." If the day were to come that these middle class on-lookers of the painting were to see Madame, the river-whore, out in the city, they would not even give her a second look and they certainly would not be appreciating her beauty.

"Both poor, we make our living how we can."

Madame, Line 21, "Standing Female Nude"

In this quote, "both" refers to the narrator, Madame, and the painter Georges. Using context clues from the rest of the poem, it seems that both model and artist are unable to do what they truly love, because what they truly love is either not an option or it will not supply them with enough money to survive. It is ironic though, that both of these people are sacrificing their dream jobs, yet both are still poor and they do not seem to be gaining anything from this sacrifice. Many may question, why these individuals do not change what they do for a living, but with such fickle careers as an artist and model, these two individuals are stuck in a situation where they must follow what society demands. If society demands paintings of naked women, then models will model nude and artists will paint them.

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