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Carol Ann Duffy
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The Monday Poem > War Photographer by Carol Ann Duffy 19/01/2015

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

In his dark room he is finally alone
with spools of suffering set out in ordered rows.
The only light is red and softly glows,
as though this were a church and he
a priest preparing to intone a Mass.
Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh. All flesh is grass.

He has a job to do. Solutions slop in trays
beneath his hands, which did not tremble then
though seem to now. Rural England. Home again
to ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel,
to fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat.

Something is happening. A stranger’s features
faintly start to twist before his eyes,
a half-formed ghost. He remembers the cries
of this man’s wife, how he sought approval
without words to do what someone must
and how the blood stained into foreign dust.

A hundred agonies in black and white
from which his editor will pick out five or six
for Sunday’s supplement. The reader’s eyeballs prick
with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers.
From the aeroplane he stares impassively at where
he earns his living and they do not care.

From Scottish Poetry Library

From New Selected Poems 1984-2004 (Picador, 2004). Originally published in Standing Female Nude (Anvil, 1985)

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I studied many poems by Carol Ann Duffy in GSCE and I've always remembered this one. I think it's very powerful

message 3: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Great choice Heather! It really brought home to me how divided people who do this job (or any kind of war correspondent) must feel.

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

I agree. Whenever I read it, I always think of the famous photo of the 'napalm girl'. Read this and then looking at the picture makes me feel very sad

message 5: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ Really brings home all the horror and terror they must see in order to do their job.

message 6: by Shirley (new)

Shirley | 4177 comments Good choice, Heather. Very moving and powerful.

message 7: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Great poem Heather! As others have said, what a strain it must be to see all those terrible things and then live among people who couldn't really understand them. Such a touching poem and well written as well, very vivid.

I like the part about intoning mass; these images have such a weight of significance for him. I also like that image of the solutions slopping in trays, his hands trembling now more so than when he faced the dangers and horrors up close.

Thanks for sharing this poem Heather. I'm embarrassed to admit I'm not very familiar with Carol Ann Duffy, but I'm eager now to seek out more of her work!

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

I studied lots of her poetry at English GCSE, she is very popular for exam boards. I think most people my age who were educated in the UK will have read some of her poetry!

She is often quite dark, her poetry isn't very pretty. But I think it has a lot of meaning

message 9: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
How interesting Heather! I don't recall hearing about her in school in the US, but maybe I was sleeping that day ;)

Thanks so much for introducing me to her work! It's always interesting to hear who is studied in other countries. A friend of mine at work grew up in Iran, and I loved hearing about the historic Persian literature she studied. One of the great things about AAB is learning these things!

message 10: by Gill (new)

Gill | 5720 comments Also to say, Greg, that Carol Ann Duffy is the Poet Laureate. I don't know if there is an equivalent in the US.

message 11: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Greg wrote: "How interesting Heather! I don't recall hearing about her in school in the US, but maybe I was sleeping that day ;)

Thanks so much for introducing me to her work! It's always interesting to hear ..."

I am finding that poetry is even more regional/national than novels and short stories, at least in English classes. That is one reason that this feature is so great! What is an old favorite for someone is a brand new poet to another :)

message 12: by Dhanaraj (new)

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments Powerful poem and the title is 100% justified.

message 13: by Greg (last edited Mar 28, 2015 02:22PM) (new)

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
You're totally right Leslie! I think different poets do tend to be known more in some countries than others. I really enjoy all the new discoveries I make here.

Gill, we definitely do in the US too! This link lists all the US laureates; several of them I love!

message 14: by Alannah (new)

Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 11958 comments Mod
Can't believe I missed this poem, I love Carol Ann Duffy.

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