Monday, 2 June 2008

Poem of the Week: Salome - Carol Ann Duffy

I picked this poem this week as it's one of my favorite poems to study with my class. I always lte them study a few of Duffy's angsty poems before getting to this, I love seeing the realisation on their faces that this isn't a poem about one night stands.

The voice rumbles on in a gossipy tone, bragging about the conquest of the night before, and the language works well to lead the reader into a false sense of security.

Duffy's collection The World's Wife is my all time favorite poetry book.

I’d done it before
(and doubtless I’ll do it again,
sooner or later)
woke up with a head on the pillow beside me – whose? –
what did it matter?

Good-looking, of course, dark hair, rather matted;
the reddish beard several shades lighter;
with very deep lines around the eyes,
from pain, I’d guess, maybe laughter;
and a beautiful crimson mouth that obviously knew
how to flatter…
which I kissed…
Colder than pewter.
Strange. What was his name? Peter?

Simon? Andrew? John? I knew I’d feel better
for tea, dry toast, no butter,
so rang for the maid.
And, indeed, her innocent clatter
of cups and plates,
her clearing of clutter,
her regional patter,
were just what I needed –
hungover and wrecked as I was from a night on the batter.

Never again!
I needed to clean up my act,
get fitter,
cut out the booze and the fags and the sex.
Yes. And as for the latter,
it was time to turf out the blighter,
the beater or biter,
who’d come like a lamb to the slaughter
to Salome’s bed.

In the mirror, I saw my eyes glitter.
I flung back the sticky red sheets,
and there, like I said – and ain’t life a bitch –
was his head on a platter.

For last weeks poem see here


Eva said...

What a creepy poem! Thanks for sharing it. :)

____Maggie said...

Did you forget about the pecans? Just send me your e-mail if mine aren't working. I don't wnt to get behind in my shipping. Thanks! :)

Clinically Dependent said...

I really love her style; Mrs Faust is my favourite. It's so fun to read.

One thing though, can you please un-centre the poem!

duncan said...

I have to disagree that this definitely isn't about one night stands. If you read the poem: look at the amount of slang - it's well used. therefore when she pulls back the sheets, she sees his 'head'- slang for his penis. His head was on the pillow at the start and so there was no need to pull the sheets bacjk to reveal it was there? The sheets - 'sticky' from the sex of the one night stand and red, because some people like red sheets - let's not stereotype them eh? She ends by saying'well ain't life a bitch' because she's going to mount him again. It is quite common to have meaningless sex with a one night stand and I'm sure a psychologist could tell us why. Life being a bitch is an interesting word choice. I reaad it in one way as her saying something like 'it's a tough job...but somebody's got to do it'. After all she is now looking at his morning erection which she describes as being 'on a platter' or in other words there for the taking. Go girl! Anyone got her number?

duncan said...

Sorry I meant to write maningless sex the following morning after a one night stand.

Flippy Doodle said...

I love this poem! It's so weird, but they had us study this poem in year 8 or school!
Oh god, people just kept giggling at 'sex'. But the poem got stuck in my head, and I decided to read it properly now.

I absolutely love Carol Ann Duffy, and this poem is great.

I really like Duncan's interpretation of what 'head on a platter' means.

I always thought it was simply referring to the story in the New Testament, and the deeper meaning was that she had somehow seduced and trapped this man in such a way that it is almost as if she has murdered him by cutting off his head; but I have to agree with Duncan's interpretation now! Makes so much more sense.

small_but_mighty said...

I disagree Duncan, Salome is a biblical character who asks fro John the Baptists head in the Bible. Duffy has taken the story and put it into a more modern context.

small_but_mighty said...


Babelfish said...

Yeah, I also agree that Duncan is wrong. The poem is clearly referencing the story of Salome, else it wouldn't be named after it. It's almost like you're just searching for a meaning that isn't there.

Babelfish said...

I mean seriously, 'Red because some people like red sheets'? The sheets are red because of the blood. The line is powerful because this reason isn't fully revealed until the end. The line isn't left unexplained because it's up for interpretation; it's because it's so obviously alluded to.

Rosiegoat1 said...

This poem is actually about feminism and murder. It has serious biblical links with the story of st John the Baptist and Salome. Also, if you closely analyse the poem it has huge links to bloodshed 'reddish beard' even tho he has 'dark hair'? Also, in stanza 3, the phrases 'turn out the blighter' is colloquial language but also means that the speaker is a feminist, and is talking down to the man. the phrase 'lamb to the slaughter' is another biblical reference, as Jesus was the lamb of god, but also states feminism again, as a lamb is an innocent and preyed upon a lot, and represents men, and women represent the predator, and are more powerful than men. Also, 'sticky red sheets' once again represents bloodshed too. The phrase 'aint life a bitch' almost seems that it is not her fault and she is saying that 'that's life, get over it!'also 'head on a platter' is another biblical reference to St John the baptist once again! There are more biblical references, and also vanity ones! Hope this is useful to anyone studying this poem!

liam-baker said...

I cant believe you people think this poem is about sex. The woman in the poem has a vendetta and is probably a feminist! she's killed the man 'his reddish beard several shade lighter' from the blood of cutting of his head. This is a brilliant poem.

lewis fisher said...

To be honest salome's cereal killings are a regular occurance and she dosent really care about life also dosent keep track of her victims "What was his name?Peter?Simon?Andrew?John?". This proceeds to my next point John is last because it was her first 'kill' as you might say. Salome saying this man was 'good looking, of course, dark hair, rather matted; the reddish beard several shades lighter' means she must have been quite an attractive young lady herself. Carol Ann Duffy uses amazing descriptive language next "crimson mouth" could have been blood coming out of his mouth after he was beheaded or Salome's lipsick "which i kissed", also "colder than pewter" Carol Ann Duffy knew that pewter was a cold, dull and lifeless metal unlike aliminium, silver, steel etc; and where pewter is a gray dull metal it compares to skin once once you're dead. "i knew i'd feel better for tea, dry toast, no butter," these three components are a usual hangover cure. Leading to near the end of this fantastic poem "Never again!" I needed to clean up my act, get fitter, cut the booze and the fags and the sex." "Never again!" Lies! At the beginning "I'd done it before (and doubtless ill do it again, sooner or later)" plus "Never again!" is a usual phrase that someone who is hungover would say. And im 13 yh by Lewis Fisher

Bill Cooper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lyns123 said...

clever Ann D ... the poem is open to interpretation... ambiguous, to appeal to more people.. is y the lady is a poet, innit? :)