Memories play a significant role in the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy, particularly her recollections of childhood places and events. The poem “Originally,” published in The Other Country (1990), draws specifically from memories of Duffy's family's move from Scotland to England when she and her siblings were very young. The first-born child, Duffy was just old enough to feel a deep sense of personal loss and fear as she traveled farther and farther away from the only place she had known as “home” and the family neared its alien destination. This sentiment is captured in “Originally,” in which it is described in the rich detail and defining language of both the child who has had the experience and the adult who recalls it. As the title suggests, a major concern of the poem is beginnings—one's roots, birthplace, and homeland. Stanzas 1 and 2 center on the pain of Lines 1-3
Lines 1 through 3 of “Originally” establish the personas in the poem, identified by the phrases “our mother” and “our father's.” The first word, “We,” must refer to a family. These lines also establish the setting of the work and suggest a personal attachment to a place: “our own country.” The setting, or place, however, is not stationary; rather, the “red room,” most likely a reference to the vehicle in which the family is traveling, appears to rush along, falling “through the fields” that go by in a blur. The phrase “turn of the wheels” further clarifies that the speaker and her family are in a car, but the words that precede it are a bit misleading in the tone they convey: “. . . our mother singing / our father's name to the turn of the wheels” suggests a merrily traveling family, riding lightheartedly down the road. The rest... Originally Themes
“Originally” is a poem about a child fearful of losing her identity and the struggle she goes through in an attempt to retain it. The title itself indicates the significance of roots and of having definite origins, something the speaker worries she has lost by being forced to leave her native country at such a young age. The temperament within the family as a whole seems harmonious enough: The mother sings the father's name “to the turn of the wheels,” and there is no mention of quarreling among the children. Instead, it is the idea of place, not people, that stirs feelings of apprehension and uncertainty. The boys cry because they know they have lost their familiar environment forever, and one of them leaves no room for doubting the source of his pain as he bawls, “Home, / Home.” A strong sense of patriotic pride and nationalism has been... Originally Style
Loose Blank Verse
Traditional blank verse is composed of lines of unrhymed iambic pentameter, which means lines of ten syllables with the accent on the first syllable of each pair of syllables. A common example is the work of Shakespeare, whose plays are written in this form. In the line, “If music be the food of love, play on” (Twelfth Night, act 1, scene 1, line 1), note the TA-dum TA-dum TA-dum TA-dum TA-dum rhythm. Defined more loosely, blank verse can mean any unrhymed poetry, only slight attention being given to the structure of iambic pentameter. “Originally” falls into this category. Less than a third of the lines in “Originally” have exactly ten syllables, most having eleven or twelve. Nonetheless, stanza 1 contains four ten-syllable lines in a row, lines 2 through 5, and the iambic pentameter is readily recognized in “which fell through the fields, our mother singing / our.. Foreign
by Michael Woods
The poet asks the reader to consider what it must be like to be an immigrant worker, the object of racist abuse, living in an unlovely house, finding communication difficult and feeling homesick. Duffy's preoccupation with language is dealt with here form the perspective of its cultural significance as much as its ability to say anything. To the immigrant, the...
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