Rapture Carol Ann Duffy Critical Views

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‘Rapture’ Reviews and Information



Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy

Reviewed By Ellen Miller-Mack

August 23rd, 2013


Is this volume, winner of the T.S.Eliot Prize, as subversive (sub-verse) as it is obsessive? Is poetry subversive? A.R. Ammons said: “Yes, you have no idea how subversive – deeply subversive. Consciousness often reaches a deeply intense level at the edges of things, questioning and undermining accepted ways of doing things. The audience resists the change to the last moment, and then is grateful for it.”

I offer no resistance. I surrender to extravagant poetry and the stormy powers of love and sex, and leap into the element of which we are composed, and use every muscle in our souls to stay afloat within. From “River”:


The river stirs and turns, consoling and fondling itself
with watery hands, its clear limbs parting and closing.
Grey as a secret, the heron bows its head on the bank.

I drop my past on the grass and open my arms, which ache
as though they held up this heavy sky, or had pressed
against window glass all night as my eyes sieved the stars;

open my mouth, wordless at last meeting love at last, dry
from traveling so long, shy of a prayer. You step form the shade,
and I feel love come to my arms and cover my mouth, feel;

my soul swoop and ease itself into my skin, like a bird
threading a river. Then I can look love full in the face, see
who you are I have come this far to find, the love of my life.


Sexual love is enacted by the moon, stars and clouds, ocean and shore, witnessed by the lush forest floor. A poet as accomplished as Carol Anne Duffy can work on the grandest of scales, and go forth unabashedly, over the top. If Shakespeare is perched on her shoulder,


Not there to lie on the grass of our graves, both,
alive alive oh,
or there for Shakespeare’s shooting star,
or there for who we are,

so be it. Give me voluptuous poetry to savor in slow, delectable bites.
If sexual desire were anything but insatiable, it would be something else. If experience couldn’t let language in, there’d be no poem, only rain. From “Bridgewater Hall”:

If rain were words, could talk,
somehow against your skin, I’d say look up, let it utter
on your face. Now hear my love for you. Now walk.


And on Duffy’s other shoulder, H.D. is perched. In these poems, you’ll find finely wrought imagism. But prepare yourself for the sad volta. From all-love to not-love. The animate and inanimate elements of the planet mirror and respond to the poet’s inner world and experience, feeling strikingly rational. From “Wintering”:


The garden tenses, lies face down, bereaved,
has wept its leaves.
The Latin names of plants blur like belief.

I walk on ice, it grimaces, then breaks.
All my mistakes


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