English Literature AQA Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage

English Literature AQA Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage

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  • Monologue spoken by Miss Havisham, Great Expectations.
  • Annoyed scheming fiancé, continues to wear wedding dress and sit amid the remains of her wedding breakfast for the rest of her life, plotting revenge on all men.
  • She hates her spinster state - of which her unmarried family name constantly reminds her.
  • Tells reader of cause of troubles: her phrase “beloved sweetheart *******” oxymoron
  • She tells us that she has prayed so hard (with eyes closed and hands pressed together) that her eyes have shrunk hard and her hands have sinews strong enough to strangle with - which fits her murderous wish for revenge.
  • Havisham's mother Estella, has strangled a rival in Dickens' novel.
  • 'Green pebbles for eyes' so hardened by hatred no clarity in sight.
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  • Havisham aware of stink- stays in bed all day screaming in denial.
  • 'Who did this to me?' dreams erotically tenderly lost lover.
  • “stabbed at the wedding cake” she now wants to revenge 'male corpse'
  • Four stanzas, unrhymed, lines enjambment effect is normal speech.
  • Poet uses adjectives of colour: 'green', 'puce', 'white', 'red'
  • Uses many adjectives: 'eyes', 'hands', 'tongue', 'mouth', 'ear'
  • Hints of violence in “strangle”, “bite”, “bang” and “stabbed”
  • Fell into depression
  • Havisham is an exploration of love turned to hatred through the bitterness of rejection
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Elvis' Twin Sister

  • The poem has two subtitles: Are You Lonesome Tonight? Elvis

  • The second is a statement by the female singer Madonna

  • The sister whom Carol Ann Duffy imagines for Elvis is very different from Madonna. She is modest with a cheerful character like Elvis' persona.

  • Humorous contrast between the life, manners and dress of the nun, and the flamboyance of rock and roll.

  • Despite her nun's vow, Sister Presley swings her hips in the same way as Elvis, wears a habit and carries a rosary, but she also has the blue suede shoes immortalized by Elvis.

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Elvis' Twin Sister

  • Gregorian chant simple melodies but calm and gentle mood. Early days rock and roll it was called the Devil's music.

  • Convent with Elvis's home, Graceland. Elvis chose Graceland because of his own Christian belief. Her exclamation “Lawdy” is a popular version of “Praise the Lord”.

  • No one is ever “lonesome” - and it is a long time since she “walked/down Lonely Street/towards Heartbreak Hotel”.

  • The form of the poem is quite regular - five line stanzas.

  • Duffy “y'all” to rhyme with “soul” and “rock and roll”-give it authenticity

  • Exploration of ideas of fame, friendship and family.

  • Pascha nostrum immolatus est is the name of a Latin hymn. 
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Anne Hathaway

  • Anne Hathaway wife of William Shakespeare
  • Uses the sonnet form which Shakespeare favoured
  • As lovers they were as inventive as Shakespeare was in his poetry
  • Their bed might contain “forests, castles, torchlight”, “clifftops” and “seas where he would dive for pearls”- ****** imagery.
  • Shakespeares words were ” shooting stars” more down-to-earth consequence of “kisses/on these lips”.
  • She also finds in the dramatist's technique of “rhyme...echo...assonance” a metaphor for his physical contact - a “verb” (action) which danced in the centre of her “noun”.
  • Best bed reserved for the guests, they only dribbled “prose” (inferior pleasure) while she on the second best bed enjoyed the best of “Romance/and drama”.
  • The language here has obvious connotations of sexual intercourse.
  • Double meanings: lexicon (vocabulary) is not obviously anachronistic words could spoken by real Anne.
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  • Poem story found in New Testament books Matthew and Mark

  • Salome daughter of Herodias and Philip. She danced before the ruler, Herod Antipas promised to grant any request she might make.

  • John the Baptist condemned Herodias her affair with Herod. Salome asked head of John: executed.

  • Head on the pillow is no part of the real story of Salome, but appears to have been stolen from the feature film, The Godfather: head of his prize racehorse.

  • “done it before” - taken a head (presumably in the case of John the Baptist) and that she would “doubtless...do it again”.

  • Calls for the maid has breakfast, and decides to “clean up” her life. As part of this regime, she decides to get rid of her lover.

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  • Poem ends as she pulls back the sheets “sticky” with blood, to find “his head on a platter”. (Both Matthew and Mark say that John the Baptist's head was brought to Salome on a platter.)

  • Duffy introduces all sorts of contemporary details into the poem, such as toast and butter and cigarettes, as well as modern attitudes, like a decision to “turf out” a lover.

  • The black humour of the poem is well served by the style - especially the piling up of rhymes: “lighter, laughter, flatter, pewter, Peter” and so on. This becomes especially manic in:

    “...as for the latter
    it was time to turf out the blighter,
    the beater or biter”

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Before you were mine

  • Moves between the present and past which is frequently referred to in the present tense.
  • Poem is written as if spoken by Carol Ann Duffy to her mother, whose name is Marilyn.
  • Once her child is born, the mother no longer goes out dancing with her friends: a woman with children was expected to stay at home and look after them.
  • Motherhood was seen as a serious duty, especially among Roman Catholics.
  • “I'm ten years away” (does “away” mean before this or yet to come?)
  • “I'm not here yet” scene at the start poem comes before birth of poet. Duffy imagines a scene: Marilyn stands laughing with her friends on a Glasgow street corner. Thinking of the wind on the street and her mother's name suggests to Duffy the image of Marilyn Monroe with her skirt blown up by an air vent.
  • She recalls her mother as young and similarly glamorous, the “polka-dot dress” locating this scene in the past.
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Before you were mine

  • Duffy contrasts young woman's romantic fantasies with the reality of motherhood :“The thought of me doesn't occur/in...the fizzy, movie tomorrows/ the right walk home could bring...”
  • Her birth and her “loud, possessive yell” marked the end of her mother's happiest times. Poignancy as she recalls her child's fascination with her mother's “high-heeled red shoes”. The shoes are “relics” because they are no longer worn for going out.
  • The “ghost” suggests that her mother is now dead, but may just indicate that the younger Marilyn is only seen in the imagination, as she “clatters...over George Square”.
  • Duffy addresses her as if she is her mother's parent: “sweetheart”
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Before you were mine

  • “I see you, clear as scent” mixes the senses  synaesthesia to show how a familiar smell can trigger a most vivid recollection.
  • “Stamping stars” suggests a contrast between the child's or her mother's (“sensible”) walking shoes
  • Touches on the universal theme of the brevity (shortness) of happiness. (This is sometimes expressed by the Latin phrase carpe diem - “seize the day”). The form of the poem is conventional: blank verse (unrhymed pentameters) stanzas, all of five lines.
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We remember your childhood well

  • This is a poem about denial.
  • Speaker appears mother father reassuring child of happy childhood.
  • Reassurances are not convincing: accused later of some kind of cruelty
  • They assembled a record of evidence (“pictures” and “facts”) to refute the child's memories.
  • Clear structure 3 line stanzas rhythm scheme “moors/door”, “tune/boom”, “internal rhyme “occur/blur”.
  • Unifying feature each stanza opens with statement “Nobody hurt you”
  • Gap between appearance and reality- parent not dispute that something occurred that the child thought was bad. Parent claims that the child's recollections are subjective “impressions”- false. “That didn't occur. You couldn't sing anyway, cared less” or the way the parent claims to know the child's own feelings better than he or she ever did - “you wanted to go that day. Begged” and “people/You seemed to like”.
  • Harsh and cynical view of what childhood may be at its worst 
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  • Shows someone for whom theft is just a response to boredom.
  • Hints at constructive pursuits (making a snowman) and artistic objects (a guitar, a bust of Shakespeare). The thief steals and destroys but cannot make anything.
  • Speaker relating various thefts to be police officer. Person he is speaking to doesn't understand him: “You don't understand a word I'm saying” doesn't refer to his words literally, so much as the ideas he expresses. Poem shows  anti-social behaviour to be inevitable: no compassion for his victims.
  • Admiration of snowman affection cares more for inanimate object than children. Thief is morally confused:“not taking what you want” as “giving in”, as if you might as well be dead as accept conventional morality.
  • Alienates us by saying that he enjoyed taking the snowman because he knew that the theft would upset the children. “Life's tough”
  • “lumps of snow”. This could almost be a metaphor for the self-defeating nature of his thefts.
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  • Final stanza more honest. Bravado left thief's real motivation emerges-boredom, inability to make or do anything which gives pleasure.
  • The theft of the guitar is typically self-deceiving. He thinks he “might/learn to play”
  • Stealing the “bust of Shakespeare” also seems ironic to the reader. The thief takes an image of perhaps the greatest creative talent the world has ever seen.
  • The final line, which recalls the poem's conversational opening, is very apt: it as if the speaker has sensed not just that the person he is speaking to is disturbed by his confession but also that the reader of the poem doesn't “understand” him.
  • Poem colloquial but the speaking voice here is very distinct.
  • Speaker uses striking images (“a mucky ghost”) and some unlikely vocabulary (“he looked magnificent”) but he also uses clichés (“Life's tough”).
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Mother any distance

  • We call a packet from which we tear out the matches a book, but this is also a book in the normal sense, with words for us to read.
  • The speaker is measuring up a house he is moving in.
  • Mother has “come to help” him as he needs “a second pair of hands” to measure distances greater than the span of his two arms. 
  • Eventually he reaches the limit of the tape - as he looks at an open hatch, opening on an “endless sky”. He imagines himself passing through this - “to fall or fly”.
  • Explores emotional connection mother child tape measure metaphor.
  • Reeling out of the tape is like the passing of the years.
  • His mother is an anchor and he is a kite - this may bring security but may also limit his freedom to fly.
  • Poet is space-walking - the phrase is a pun, as he is also walking through the “empty” space of the bedroom.
  • “last one hundredth of an inch” marks the limit of the tape measure
  • Conclusion of the poem is ambiguous- independence
  • The mother's fingertips “still pinch” reluctant at the last to let go.
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My father thought it bloody queer

  • The son's assertion of independence, and the father's disapproval.
  • Speaker in the poem ear pierced, and earns his father's scorn.
  • Gesture half-hearted piercing infected speaker thinks “and leave it out”
  • “bloody queer” father said son is “easily...led” with the sarcastic addition that the ring should have been through his nose.
  • Expresses dilemma young attempt free himself of values of his parents.
  • Not standing up for some noble principle in which he believes 
  • Poem ending ambiguous- removal of ring sign wisdom other may regret speaker become sensible and ready to conform.
  • Voice at end is speaker's own voice
  • While he sees that he was wrong, he still regrets losing the will to rebel or to find his real self.
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  • The poet invites us think of a trust game in the first stanza.
  • The second stanza yellow cotton jacket has come off its hook: “cloakroom floor” it is trampled on - “scuffed and blackened underfoot.” Sequel to this is that “back home”, a mother “puts two and two together” and gets the wrong answer (“makes a...fist of it” in the dialect phrase)
  • Mother blames the child for being careless- follows accusation temper “...Temper, temper. Questions/ In the house. You seeing red. Blue murder. Bed”
  • Further sequel - the child sneaks out of the house at midnight. She does not go far (“no further than the call-box at the corner of the street”): relationship with her parents is damaged.
  • Poet talking to friend (girlfriend)
  • She complaining about time she was unfairly punished as a child
  • He is explaining how she can get over this and finally move on in her parental relationship.
  • 'Retrace' go back and make up
  • Last verse: as he envelopes her putting the coat back again stepping into childhood. 'falling backwards' into his life
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  • Armitage taking elderly relative to hospital to die. Eventually die but choose think of other things when 'the sun spangles' Other images poem been selected by poet to add depressing tone, parked car badly.
  • There are occasional rhymes final rhyming couplet and 6 stanzas
  • Two men find experience 'shattering' partially because of emotional turmoil it induces.
  • They realise that one day they will become these 'monsters'
  • 'November' month winter begin year draws close like death
  • 'It is time John suggest feel time to leave Grandma behind drive through 'the twilight zone.'
  • Final line ambiguous 'one thing we have to get John out of this life' punctuation suggest all have to get out of life to leave it and die.
  • Life and enjoy life while you can.
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  • Poem centralises around Batman and Robin and what would happen when Robin grows-up whilst Batman grows old.
  • Describe how Robin has broken free from Batman’s shadow and is successful on his own. Robin reveals the hero’s weaknesses.
  • Rhyming words ending in -er run throughout the poem.
  • The lines consist of ten syllables using a rhythm opposite to an iambic pentameter.
  • Rhythm rushed through the use of enjambment and rhyme.
  • Robin the side-kick has broken loose, he is now “taller, sharper, harder”.
  • Greatest of superheroes have faults, that nobody’s perfect. The poem also makes reference to other works of literature – a newspaper in the form of headlines: “Holy robin-redbreast-nest-egg-shocker” and Robin Hood “Sherwood-Forest”.
  • Use of Batman is also very effective because many in the audience will have watched the Batman cartoons or read the comics as a child, reflected in the poems title: ‘kid’. The poem suggests that we all must grow-up.
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  • Sharp contrast between two characters in the poem.
  • The speaker, a violent individual, contrasts with the ‘hippy’ hitchhiker.
  • Reference to elements of pop culture “The truth/he said, was blowin’ in the wind”- a line from a Bob Dylan song:  poem more memorable.
  • The poem centralises on the theme of mindless, uncontrollable violence.
  • The man’s causal violence is emphasised by his language and the conversational style of the poem.
  • The man has been “under the weather” he “let him have it”. The character also seems to be proud of what he has done; he describes how he “didn’t even serve”.
  • Monologue in which a man confesses to murder:speaker in the poem has been taking time off work - Being threatened with the sack (losing his job), he goes in to work again.
  • Drives out of Leeds he picks up a hitchhiker who is travelling light and has no set destination.  he attacks his passenger, and throws him out of the still-moving car. The last he sees of the hiker, he is “bouncing off the kerb, then disappearing down the verge” - we do not know if he is dead or just badly injured. The driver does not care.
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Those bastards

  • Poem polarizes society into the wealthy property owners and their shadowy enemy. We can suppose that mention of “mansions” and “palaces and castles” is hyperbole (great exaggeration).
  • Speaker as a kind of universal outlaw or revolutionary - since there are other details that suggest the poem is set in a past time - the “burning torches” and the “cuffs and shackles”.
  • It appears at first that the speaker's offence is against the homes and property of the wealthy.
  • This was the great crime (from the gods' point of view) of Prometheus - one of the Titans who lighted his torch at the chariot of the sun, and brought it to man. For this offence he was punished horribly, chained to a rock where a bird of prey fed on his liver. (Usually the bird is depicted as a vulture, but Simon Armitage may have Prometheus in mind when he writes “picked at by their eagles”. )
  • The poem has some interesting technical features - ten of the first eleven lines end with a unstressed syllable; where the last word rhymes we call this a feminine or double rhyme - as on “ditches/britches”
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I've made out a will

  • This poem is about an organ donor with a reservation: all except his heart.
  • Speaker “made out a will” to ensure that his wishes are carried out. He lists the body parts that he “is sure they can use”
  • “but not the pendulum, the ticker/leave that where it stops or hangs.”
  • It has irregular rhymes (full and half rhymes) and is split into sections - the first of eight lines (as in a Petrarchan sonnet), while the final six lines are split again, so the poem ends with a couplet (as in a Shakespearean sonnet).
  • The poem has a series of vivid metaphors for the different body parts: “jellies”, “tubes”, “syrups” and “glues” suggest different body fluids. Often these appear in lists.
  • Sometimes there are alternative images for the same thing - so the skeleton (or the thorax, anyway) is “chassis” (as in a motor vehicle), “cage” (the traditional image) and “cathedral of bone” (it is a holy or spiritual place).
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On My First Sonne

  • Written by Ben Jonson after the death of his first son.
  • Jonson arranges the lines in rhyming couplets. The poem also uses an iambic pentameter
  • Jonson contrasts his feelings of sorrow with what he thinks he ought to feel - happiness that his son is in a better place, in heaven with God. In the poem Jonson is speaking as himself. He calls him the child of his "right hand" both to suggest the boy's great worth and also the fact that he would have been the writer's heir.
  • The poet sees the boy's death as caused by his sin - in loving the child too much - an idea that returns at the end of the poem.
  • He sees the boy's life also in terms of a loan, which he has had to repay, after seven years, on "the just day".
  • This extended metaphor expresses the poet’s idea that all people really belong to God and are permitted to spend time in this world.
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Yasmin Elmasry


thanks so much!! You have seriously saved my life!! However, do we need to know ALL the poems and if so what are the main MAIN poems to learn?

Natalie Simon


@Yasmin I'll be honest, I have no idea but the main poems I've highlighted. I'm so nervous about this exam tomorrow but it'll be fine as we have the anthology in the exam. :)

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