‘The World’s Wife’ by Carol Ann Duffy is one of my favourite volumes of poetry. It invents the untold stories of the women behind the great men of history in an accessible way, while still having plenty of depth. If you’re interested, here are my recommendations:
- Little Red-Cap – Here Duffy recalls a past love affair, using the allegory of Little Red Riding Hood. There is some beautiful gothic imagery and several memorable lines, such as ‘allotments/kept, like mistresses, by kneeling married men‘.
- Mrs Darwin – This poem somehow manages to be funny, clever and thought-provoking in just four lines.
- Pygmalion’s Bride – A witty take on the classic story of the sculptor who falls in love with his own masterpiece.
- Anne Hathaway – A romantic interpretation of what Shakespeare meant when he wrote in his will, ‘Item I gyve unto my wief my second best bed…‘
- The Devil’s Wife – A disturbing but profound poem in five parts, based on the case of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.
- Mrs Quasimodo – This longer poem is tragic but refreshing in that it deals with two ugly people falling in love, and I like the motif of the bells and their ‘murdered music.’
- Demeter – A touching and understated celebration of a mother’s love, and a fitting way to end the collection.