The World's Wife
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The World's Wife

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  1,696 ratings  ·  152 reviews
Be terrified.
It's you I love,
perfect man,
Greek God, my own;
but I know you'll go,
betray me, stray
from home.
So better by far for
me if you were stone.
--from "Medusa"

Stunningly original and haunting, the voices of Mrs. Midas, Queen Kong, and Frau Freud, to say nothing of the Devil's Wife herself, startle us with their wit, imagination, and incisiveness in this collectio
Paperback, 76 pages
Published April 9th 2001 by Faber & Faber (first published 1999)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,663)
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"These myths going round, these legends, fairytales, I'll put them straight."

While I was clearing out my wardrobe I was attacked by a falling lever-arch file and, after flicking through it, I found a copy of an A-Level essay that I wrote on this collection.

I immediately went to my bookshelf and dug out my heavily annotated (Phrases such as "Satirises the traditional views of women to represent them as holders of power" and "Men's violence is faced and outdone" somehow look more intelligent whe...more
May 27, 2012 Teresa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: James Murphy
These are fun, clever, sly poems, reimagining fairy tales, Bible stories (one of my favorites was "Queen Herod"), myths, legends and even true stories, but all from a female point of view and in contemporary language.

Though I used the word 'fun,' a few really aren't. Some are too sad ("Mrs Quasimodo") or too touching ("Anne Hathaway") or too scathing ("Mrs Beast," the penultimate poem, states in no uncertain terms the reason for this collection) to be considered mere fun. And even the ones that...more
Jan 26, 2014 Zanna rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Zanna by: Sallybleasdale
Shelves: poetry, feminism
My favourite of her books.

Incisive and uncompromising, this diverse series of vignettes contains women of all stripes, vibrant vessels for Duffy's kaleidoscope of reflections on relations between women and men, the roles and experiences of wives and lovers. Her protagonists are everything but passive, and Duffy takes every view but the easy and obvious.
This was the topic of my senior thesis (specifically the poem 'Medusa'), and also my most recent attempt at finding something revolutionary, interesting, or worthwhile in modern poetry. The dadaists and beat poets were intent on wresting poetry from the jaws of tradition. By popularizing poetry, they turned poetry into another pointless, populist act.

By enshrining the 'personal experience' as the sole qualifier of poetic worth, they ensured that every hack poet will feel justified in sharing the...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 10, 2014 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Frieda Hughes, 5 Books Blog
Shelves: poetry, read2014
I first encountered a mention of this book of poems when Frieda Hughes selected five books of poetry on the Five site.

While it is easily seen as a writing exercise, taking characters in literature, mythology, and pop culture and flip them on their ear by writing about their wives, the poet does it brilliantly. Some poems are sad (Mrs. Lazarus), some are triumphant (Little Red-Cap), and they vary in style and tone. So fun to read, highly recommended.
James Murphy
I've read this book a few times because it's poetry that's fun while at the same time having a rich vein of truth running through it. What Carol Ann Duffy has done with The World's Wife is give voice to the unsung wives of famous husbands of history and literature. These wives have lived unappreciated and without credit in the shadows of their husbands until Duffy told their stories. Some of them we're familiar with--Eurydice, for instance, and Penelope. But it's the ones we've not given thought...more
Not only is the way these women - whether they're made up or historically accurate - sass and judge their husbands all kinds of amazing, this collection is pretty perfect on a formal level as well. Anne Hathaway talks in sonnet form, while the stories of the heroines of ancient Greek mythology and literature, such as Circe and Penelope, take on the form of longer, narrative poems. The relationship between form and content gives the poems in question the air of subtle parody, and at the same time...more
Jan 27, 2014 Robert added it
Shelves: poetry
Over-all this collection was a slight disappointment. It opens excellently with a poem dense with imagery, a radical re-imagining of the Red Riding-hood story, a complex and thought-provoking piece. Then nothing else in the book matches it, which is unfortunate, since the concept is so good.


See the complete review here:
I picked up a free copy of this in New Beacon Books – there was a stack of them left over from World Book Night earlier this year.

It’s a collection of poems all on the same theme of overturning male-centred history, literature and myth, and looking at familiar stories from the neglected wife’s perspective. So, for example, we have Mrs Aesop tiring of her husband’s constant boring fables, and Delilah explaining why she cut off Samson’s hair (he’d complained to her that he didn’t know what it was...more
I came to this collection with high expectations and enthusiasm, but it's a bit hit and miss, to be honest. Some of the poems certainly raise a smile (Mrs Darwin and Mrs Faust were two of my favourites); others are raw and painful. The voice of the deformed Mrs Quasimodo, rejected by her husband for the unattainable 'pin up gypsy/posing with the tourists in the square', drips with misery until she attains the ultimate revenge: 'A ladder. Heavy tools. A steady hand./And me, alone all night up the...more
These are Duffy's best poems, and she takes this one trick pony and turns it into a poetic calvary battalion. The trick is that each poem is based on either the wife of a historical or fictional character, or a woman from history. The voices she creates are so vivid, and her use of language is witty and hits like a hammer every time.
My favorites are "Mrs. Lazarus", "Mrs. Quasimodo", "The Devil's Wife", "Penelope", "Eurydice" and "Medusa". Mind-blowing stuff that makes us casual poets feel comple...more
This collection of poetry is one of the most wonderful, striking and thoughtful works I have read. Duffy gives voices to some of the unheard wives of male characters from fairytales, history, religion or mythology, such as, Mrs. Faust, Anne Hathaway, Frau Freud and Mrs. Beast. Her female voices show twists in the original plots of fairytales or myths, like "Little Red Cap" kills the wolf herself, Faust tricks the Devil and Mrs Beast is a powerful, strong lesbian character, while the Beast is ugl...more
Clever! I found myself smiling the whole way through this slim book of poems. The idea is genius, and the execution is masterful.
Jan 18, 2012 Katya rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
I'm not the first or the last
to stand on a hillock,
watching the man she married
prove to the world
he's a total, utter, absolute, Grade A pillock.

-Carol Ann Duffy
Mrs Icarus

It does say something when a book blows away the mind of someone who, by her own account, has no head for poetry. That is all.
Gavin Lyon
Very average populist poetry. Good idea for a collection that has been poorly executed. I find it difficult to take Duffy as a credible poet given her inability for profundity or depth of any kind. Wendy Cope, for instance, whilst being a writer of light verse, offers far more insight and delivers a greater truth than I have yet found among Duffy's words. 'Rapture', I grant, I have bought for friends only because the distance and disconnection she has with subject lent a melancholy that worked w...more
Aug 02, 2011 Jo added it
Mrs. Darwin

by Carol Ann Duffy

7 April 1852.

Went to the Zoo.

I said to Him -

Something about that Chimpanzee over there reminds me of you.

This book will make you laugh and move you to tears...
Vikki Marshall
Carol Ann Duffy fills this book of poetry with a clever wit, imagining a world of historical and mythic women who were once mostly voiceless. Duffy humorously rewrites infamous tales from a woman’s point of view. Here we meet the likes of Queen Herod, and the wife of Pontius Pilate, Mrs. Aesop, Mrs. Darwin, Salome, Mrs. Sisyphus, Eurydice and even Pope Joan. Her rendition of the life of Mrs. Quasimodo will almost break your heart, while the rest of her re-envisioned lives will make you laugh, sm...more
Sara Leigh
I loved this book, and I don't usually read poetry. Carol Ann Duffy gets into the heads of the wives of famous men (from real life, myth, and fairy tales) and presents these men in a new light. Witty, sometimes hilarious, and always insightful. Here's one that's short and to the point:

Mrs. Icarus

I'm not the first or the last
to stand on a hillock,
watching the man she married
prove to the world
he's a total, utter, absolute, Grade A pillock.

I like to dip in at random and savor one, then put it down...more
Suzie Bishop
It's easily accessible populist feminism, a poetic fast food binge. But it's delicious. Like a Mrs Midas herself, everything she touches is gold. She has the most lucid clarity of vision and observes the relationship between men and women and the mentality of women with such acuity that she will have you in tears or stitches at the turn of each page. If you're a female reader you'll relate to some of the wives so deeply that you'll even find yourself saying "God, I know EXACTLY how she feels" (m...more
Eric Shaffer
Carol Ann Duffy can write poems, and here she has an excellent idea for a collection of poems. My favorites include "Mrs. Midas," "Mrs. Darwin," "Queen Kong," "Mrs. Quasimodo," and ""Eurydice," and my votes for the best poems in the book are these: "Anne Hathaway," "Frau Freud," and "Mrs. Beast." As you can see from the titles, the theme of this collection is to give voices to the female half, counterparts, wives, or lovers of famed male figures in Western culture, mythology, and fairy tales. Th...more
I generally enjoy feminist takes on myth and legend, so was expecting to love this collection. Read in isolation, most of these poems would probably be quite satisfying; taken together, however, they were pretty repetitive. The overarching message of most of the poems seemed to be that great men are silly and self-important and that the women behind them are complex and clever. It's not a bad message, the first time around. By the third or fourth poem, however, it gets pretty stale. Duffy's lang...more
Mara Shaw
A romp. Enjoyable, accessible poetry tells the story of the women behind history's most famous men. Mrs. Darwin, Mrs. Midas, Mrs. Sisyphus, The Devil's Wife. Duffy captures many moods and plays brilliantly with words, like when Mrs. Midas gripes in frustration:
Look, we all have wishes; granted.
But who has wishes granted?

Mrs. Aesop gets fed up with her husband's constant moralizing:
'Slow but certain, Mrs. Aesop, wins the race.'

Mrs. Lazarus is gripping as she deeply mourns her...more
Adam Lowe
I have a love/hate relationship with Carol Ann Duffy. As a queer, Northern poet myself, I should love her. She should be a standard bearer for me and what I want to write. But quite often she isn't. Don't get me wrong, she's not a bad poet. Far from it. But she's not the *best* poet, despite being lauded as the poetic voice of modern Britain. Her talent is overshadowed by many other great poets, some of whom are also women and/or also queer, such as Dorothea Smartt, Rommi Smith, James Nash, and...more
Pauline Ross
This is, almost inevitably, a very mixed bunch of poems. The premise is simple - to look at some key moments of history or mythology, and imagine the female viewpoint. And some are wonderfully insightful, some are laugh-out-loud funny, some are extremely clever and some are, frankly, less inspired.

It really helps, I suppose, to have had the sort of classical education which knows exactly who Eurydice was and what she did, otherwise you spend more time Googling the references than enjoying the p...more
jesse l mabus
"she is benediction, she is the essence of thee, she is the root connection, and she is connecting with me." the words of patti smith's 'dancing barefoot' come to mind as i think about what to say about this amazing collection of feminist poems. dark, witty, sharp, honest, bloody, bawdy, so many things in the lives of history's women, so much power. i have found a new poet to love and cherish, read and share.

this is a wonderful tonic to the stupid asshat rethugnican war on women. here women and...more
In The World's Wife Duffy tackles well-known historical, literary and mythological characters from the perspective of the women who loved them, for whom "love" is much more complicated a feeling than those four letters could ever imply, as everyone who's ever loved knows all too well. Some of these poems are touched with bitterness, others with blush-worthy ardor. The combination of thematic consistency and stylistic variation means that the reader can't help but prefer some pieces to others. Th...more
This book of poetry is the June selection for my local library reading group. I am not a great poetry buff but do enjoy it in small doses. My strategy for this slim volume was to carry it with me when out and about and then read a poem or two while I was waiting in the car.

Carol Ann Duffy is well established in the UK as a poet and once was considered for Poet Laureate. This was my first encounter with her poetry and I found them overall quite accessible and very witty. This experience seems to...more
Bought this as a Christmas present that never got given. Lovely, fabulous and fantastic. Let's see ... humour, lack of the overblown, but definitely not lightweight. I think it's 'The Kray Sisters', 'The Devil's Wife' and 'Mrs Darwin' that will sit upon my mind for a great long time to come. Next up for me is her Rapture.

I was desperately trying to read Derek Walcott's Omeros, which I had to abandon due to my simple mind and his ability to remind me of a Caribbean past that I know have but the...more
I read this anthology as my core exam text for my AS English Literature.

In a phrase, I strongly disliked it. I even hated some of the poems. I think it's mostly as I couldn't relate to Duffy's mindset and disagree with her feminist views. A few of the poems I really did enjoy but many were gross exaggerations of the suppression of women, claiming in some instances that women are far more intelligent and reasonable than their husbands.
This anthology is the 'voice for silent women' whose husbands...more
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Rapture Selected Poems: Carol Ann Duffy The Bees Love Poems Mean Time

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Anne Hathaway

The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles, torchlight, clifftops, seas
where we would dive for pearls. My lover’s words
were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses
on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme
to his, now echo, assonance; his touch
a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.
Some nights, I dreamed he’d written me, the bed
a page beneath his writer’s hands. Romance
and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste.
In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on,
dribbling their prose. My living laughing love -
I hold him in the casket of my widow’s head
as he held me upon that next best bed.”
“Elvis's Twin Sister

In the convent, y'all,
I tend the gardens,
watch things grow,
pray for the immortal soul
of rock 'n' roll.

They call me
Sister Presley here,
The Reverend Mother
digs the way I move my hips
just like my brother.

Gregorian chant
drifts out across the herbs
Pascha nostrum immolatus est...
I wear a simple habit,
darkish hues,

a wimple with a novice-sewn
lace band, a rosary,
a chain of keys,
a pair of good and sturdy
blue suede shoes.

I think of it
as Graceland here,
a land of grace.
It puts my trademark slow lopsided smile
back on my face.

I'm alive and well.
Long time since I walked
down Lonely Street
towards Heartbreak Hotel.”
More quotes…