Saturday, 25 February 2012

Bees Knees (well, almost): Carol Ann Duffy - The Bees

Carol Ann Duffy's new collection is well worth reading, even though it feels at times like deja vu.

She has the ability to write poems on both public and private themes (in fact, she transgresses those divisions) which are genuinely affecting. Poems like 'Last Post', 'Water, 'English Elms' and 'Crunch' actually brought a lump to my throat. In particular, I was moved by the references to her daughter, to her role as a Mum and the loss of her own mother in which she manages to be intimate and say things of wider, political significance.

Sometimes, though, it felt as if the poet was relying on a well-used box of tricks, especially when she was re-writing famous stories from a female perspective or using lists of dynamic words (usually nouns or verbs) to heighten the impact of her verse. For instance, 'Oxfam' (a found poem, consisting of a list of second hand objects with prices and poetic comment) is a bit tired, particularly when put up against Paul Violi's list poems (NB 'Police Blotter', a truly anarchic and inspired use of pastiche). Nonetheless, this collection has enough genuine sentiment and politics to make it worth a visit.

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