A volume of poems by Carol Ann Duffy
, published in Picador in 1999. In that year it was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize
and Forward Prize
. It is a view of many of the great events of legend and history from a female perspective. They are a mixture of comic, lyrical, cynical, and sad.
She tells the stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Thetis, Delilah, Anne Hathaway, Medusa, Circe, Salome, Demeter, Galatea, Eurydice, Pope Joan, Penelope, and Beauty (Mrs Beast) through the eyes of the woman of the story. She retells some version or spin-off of the stories of Herod, Elvis Presley, Quasimodo, and the Krays, with women in the central role instead. And she speaks in the name of the wives of Midas, Tiresias, Pontius Pilate, Aesop, Darwin, Sisyphus, Faust, Lazarus, Rip Van Winkle, Icarus, Freud, and the Devil.
Two short enough to be quoted in their entirety are both comic:
I'm not the first or the last
to stand on a hillock
watching the man she married
prove to the world
he's a total, utter, absolute, Grade A pillock.
7 April 1852.
Went to the Zoo.
I said to Him--
Something about that Chimpanzee over there reminds me of you.
Anne Hathaway writes a sonnet on their famous second-best bed, including the lines My lover's words / were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses / on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme / to his, now echo, assonance.
Demeter: I swear / the air softened and warmed as she moved, / the blue sky smiling.
Penelope: then watched him sail away / into the loose gold stitching of the sun.
Eurydice is reluctant and wants to stay dead; she thought she was safe from his dogged readings.
Delilah has pity on him always strong and tough, no heart, never able to care.
Little Red Riding Hood has the hots for the wine-stained poetry-reading older Wolf.
Galatea doesn't want to be touched: My ears were sculpture, / stone-deaf, shells. / I heard the sea. / I drowned him out.
The longest is 'The Devil's Wife', a five-part exploration ofa savagely twisted life, transparently based on Myra Hindley and Ian Brady. It tells of their meeting (We're the same, he said, That's it. I swooned my soul. / We drove to the woods and he made me bury a doll.); of their trial (I have the cameras my Medusa stare); of denial without repentance (Can't remember no idea it was him it was him); of waiting (In the long fifty-year night, / these are the words that crawl out of the wall: / Suffer. Monster. Burn in Hell.); and of contemplating death (If my peroxide head on the block).