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The World's Wife

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  3,793 Ratings  ·  327 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 Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1999)
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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 wh
J.G. Keely
Mar 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Amy Norris
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What more can I say about the amazing Carol Ann Duffy at this point? She is my favourite poet of all time. Her way with words never fails to astound me. The World's Wife for me, was thought-provoking, entertaining, satirical, and incredibly witty.

A few of my favourite lines -

Some swaggering lad to break her heart
some wincing Prince to take her name away
and give a ring, a nothing, nowt in gold.

and the poem entitled Mrs. Darwin

7 April 1852

Went to the Zoo.
I said to Him -
Something about that Chimp
A collection of poems written from the perspectives of the wives, sisters or girlfriends of famous men in myth and history. There's a playful tone to most these poems with a bit of a cynical undercurrent (or more than a bit, depending on the poem).

Some of the highlights for me:


Are you terrified?
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.

"Mrs Icarus"
I'm not the first or the las
Sophie Narey (Bookreview- aholic)
Jun 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone!
Author: Carol Ann Duffy
Published: 24/09/1999

Okay so I read this book for my gcse english exam and I absolutely loved it! I very rarely give a five star rating but this one definately deserves it, it is packed full of incredible poems. It is a book that has become a firm favourite of mine and one that I could read a million times. When I read this book and had to disect it and find out exactly what the poem was meaning, it pretty much blew my mind!
This book is full of the female version of myth'
May 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Aug 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Zanna by: Sally Bleasdale
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.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
There is only one thing I can say, a quote.

"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."
Mar 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry-prose
There’s something about the way she writes and chooses words that sounds very melodic and got me hooked. I didn’t necessarily enjoy all of the poems but her writing is beautiful.
James Murphy
Jun 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I was so excited when I opened this most beautiful of books on Christmas morning. The entirety is so well presented, from its beautiful silver-foiled cover, to the fact that it comes complete with a contents page.

The blurb of The World’s Wife is so enticing: ‘That saying? “Behind every famous man…?” From Mrs Midas to Queen Kong, from Elvis’ twin sister to Pygmalion’s bride, they’re all here, in The World’s Wife. Witty and thought-provoking, this tongue-in-cheek, no-holds-barred look at the real
Dec 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
I didn't love every single one of them but my favourites are for life. This is a certain re-read and must for all. I wish I could just read them out loud in the square of the world with Huge Speakers so that no one can say that these female perspectives haven't cross their mind at least once. Inventive, funny, insightful, personal and universal at the same time. That's how I would summarise The World's Wife.
Jinghay (TheSecretNoceur)
Rating: 3.75 / 5
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Probably one of the most unique books of poetry that I've ever read! I absolutely was encapsulated by the language.
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Words, words were truly alive on the tongue, in the head,
warm, beating, frantic, winged; music and blood.

Within every [great- infamous- legendary- mythic] tale of a man is a woman with an equally important story to tell. These poems are Her stories.

From Beauty choosing the Beast because of his repugnant exterior to an overprotective Queen Herod to Mrs Sisyphus suffering a fool for a husband to a middle-aged Mrs Rip Van Winkle and her husband armed with Viagra -- each poem subverts well-known t
Jul 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Andrew Greatbatch
Back in 2012, I met Carol Ann Duffy in Manchester, after attending a poetry reading that her and a number of other poets read at, and then each taught a little class on how to write, read, and analyse poems. It was an amazing day. She read a few of the poems from this book and I was amazed. I went home and bought this and then when it arrived, put it on my bookshelf. There it sat for 2 whole years, until I picked it up tonight to read, and I really wish I hadn't left it so long!

The poems are wit
Jan 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you thought rhyme was dead think again. This was enjoyable and funny and very sweet but I wish Duffy went further with it, the poems were witty but didn't feel like they caught fire like some other feminist poetry seems to do for me.
This almost reads as genteel with occasional sex with beasts and elective lesbianism while awaiting voyaging husbands (which I'm not sure if I enjoy or resent). And so much more could have been done with Penelope's poem, just saying.
It's a good start but I was le
Jan 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, poetry
The idea of speaking for the women attached to the famous/infamous men is brilliant. Mrs. Icarus. Mrs. Aesop. Mrs. Sisyphus... Funny at times, to see the other side of things. Euridice as bored to death with the poems of Orpheus?! There was a bitter note in many that I found unpleasant, though. I'd like to hear something other than that when women write about men. There's plenty of reasons for bitterness between the sexes, sure, I'm just tired of it.
Jan 06, 2014 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:
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection, first published in 1999 was Carol Ann Duffy’s first themed collection. In these wonderful poems Carol Ann Duffy takes traditional stories, tales of historical figures and myths which traditionally focus on a male character or perspective. Turning these stories on their head then, we see them from the perspective of the invisible women behind those men.

Full review:
Michelle (Fluttering Butterflies)
Clever and fun. A poetry collection I will definitely return to.
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
As a child I read this woman's work continuously in primary school and she captivated me way back when. I loved this short collection of poems based on famous male figures in pop culture, myths and fairy tales and I loved the spins on each of them!
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a fun collection of poetry, describing the women behind the famous men. My favourites were definitely: Mrs Darwin, Thetis, Mrs Aesop, The Devil's Wife, and Mrs Beast.
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I wanted to list my favourites of this collection, but I'd be listing the entire table of contents. I wanted to pull an impactful quote, but I'd be transcribing the whole book. Jeanette Winterson said it best in the introduction:
[These poems] are written with such humour or poignancy, or insight or recognition, that we get the point, the many points, the points of view and the points of light.
Sep 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, e-books, english, poetry
Not my cuppa at all. Liked a grand total of four or five poems.
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
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Dame Carol Ann Duffy, DBE, FRSL is a Scottish poet and playwright. She is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University, and was appointed Britain's Poet Laureate in May 2009.

She is the first woman, the first Scot, and the first openly LGBT person to hold the position.

Her collections include Standing Female Nude (1985), winner of a Scottish Arts Council Award; Selling Manh

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“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.

- Anne Hathaway
“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.

- Mrs Icarus
More quotes…