“Before You Were Mine” by Carol Ann Duffy
"Before you were mine" is a poem written by a daughter about how she imagines her mother's life ten years before the daughter was born. The author describes the photo of her mother with two of her friends. They “shriek at the pavement” and seem to be sharing a joke, young and lightsome (line 4). She knows that the thought of having a child one day doesn't occur to her mother when she was young and had a lot of dreams. Now remembering her own childhood, Duffy thinks of how she used to play with her mother's red shoes and imagines when her mother might have worn them. She remembers how her mother used to teach her dance steps when she was a little girl. The poem is a four stanza one, each stanza being made up of five lines, with some variation in length of line. The first two stanzas focus purely on the life of the mother before the daughter was born, whilst the third stanza opens with a reference to the daughter's birth and then moves to the daughter's vision of her mother in her earlier life, thus providing a link with the previous stanzas. The fourth stanza begins with a recollection from the daughter's younger life with her mother, and then takes us back once again to the mother's days of dancing. I consider that the language contributes to the mood of the poem. The poem is written in first person narrative voice. There are many references to her mother as very happy - "you laugh / the bold girl winking in Portobello", "you sparkle and waltz and laugh"(lines 13-15). The author’s mother’s life can be perceived as flashy. Her mother is likened to Marilyn Monroe: “Your polka-dot dress blows round your legs. Marilyn” (line 5). Duffy’s mother dreams of "fizzy, movie tomorrows" (line 7). The poem is written in the present tense, as if the events of the photo are happening now. I suppose in this way the poet tries to make her mother's past as real as possible. It seems juicy to read a poem in which a daughter...
References: to her appear constantly: “I 'm ten years away...”, “I 'm not here yet...”, “I remember...” (lines 1, 6 and 12). The word “mine” appears in the title and the poem actually concludes with the same words as the title, as if the poet is locking her mother in a firm embrace of words.
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