Book review: Love Poems

By Carol Ann Duffy
Published by Picador

Carol Ann Duffy’s Love Poems, a poetry collection published by Picador at the beginning of the year, will conquer you from the moment you lay eyes on its book jacket, deliciously decorated with dream-like patterns.

However, you need to beware: the contents of this little volume are not as romantic as the cover might suggest. Or at least, not romantic in the conventional meaning of the word.

The thirty-four poems selected were drawn from previous collections, such as The World’s Wife and Rapture, as well as the forthcoming The Bees, to be published in 2011. All the poems are joined by a common thread: love. This however, can take many shapes and appear in different nuances and combinations.

Love and desire, as in Girlfriends: ‘That hot September night, we slept in a single bed/ naked, and our frail bodies the sweat/cooled and renewed itself’. Love and truthfulness, as in Valentine: ‘I give you an onion/ Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips/ possessive and faithful/ as we are/ for as long as we are’.

And then love and adultery, as in Correspondents: ‘When you come on Thursday, bring me a letter. We have/ the language of stuffed birds, teacups. We don’t have/ the language of bodies. My husband will be here’. Love and its end, as in New Vows: ‘New vows you make me swear to keep -/ not ever wake with you, or sleep/ or your body with my own worship.’

Desire, betrayal, longing, solitude. Carol Ann Duffy gives a voice to all the forms that love can assume and she does it in her unmistakable style. Every poem is a little jewel, its words conjuring up beautiful images in a way that makes her poetry accessible and fully enjoyable.


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