Stafford Afternoons and Duffy's anchoring ways.
Just been playing Elisabeth Schwarzkopf''s rendition of a Nun's Chorus in the car this morning and found myself straight back to Sale in the 1960s( or was it the 1970s) visiting my grandma and then travelling home on a Sunday evening squashed up with my brother in the back of a very stuffy Ford Capri! My dad was very keen on listening to 'good music' and he had a tape which seemed to accompany such trips. I think it might have been 100 Best Tunes or something like that...so this extraodinary chorus recalls my grandma at the window, my dad smoking avidly on his Benson and Hedges, the new shiny white car that marked his ambitions and my brother and I being vaguely nauseous and aware of being force fed culture...the reason I am writing this as realised that Carol Ann Duffy's ability to create anchors in her poems resurrects the past for her readers so that they are anchoring into a perceived, shared memory, thus elevating the power and resonances of the writing.
But then I thought...this cannot always work. For although many will respond to her use of the word and 'world' of the cul-de-sac ( and ice cream van) in a poem like Stafford Afternoons, many readers will not have the shared history of 1960s' summers and the awareness of the cul de sac as almost iconic of a certain time of suburban living...so what other resources does Duffy use in order to 'anchor' her readers to remembrance? Perhaps it is the tonality of the poems which suggests that what we are reading is tacitly understood due to the knowing emphasis placed upon certain words? This prevents the private experience remaining only that. For Duffy's poems to work they have to engender a sense of shared experience...it is as if words are 'marked' out for the reader and these markings privilege an understood commonality? It is as if we are hearing a link from the poem to an experience which we assume we must have had? Very interesting I feel as sometiems I find this a very arch device...used by many speakers of course, and we do it to ourselves through our rearrangement of remembrance...
Thus...in Duffy's poem 'Close' from Mean Time we hear:
'Lock the door. In the dark journey of our night, two childhoods stand in the corner of the bedroom....' How resonant the opening line. We are trusted to believe that we have all been told to 'lock the door' - it is a private experience that can instanteously transmute into a public acknowedgement...we are expectant, a little afraid and perhaps caught between one era and age and another? We are young and older at the same time? Once again this anchoring technique of Duffy challenges the reader to find the source of their reaction and therefore the complex origin of any anchoring utterance...she wants us to feel something rather than resolve that feeling as her poems make take us away from our assumed understanding and the she 'reanchors' it to something new? And then once this is done, can we ever go back? So all is a form of resurrection in Duffy's anchoring world, yet not so...can we ever hear the word 'finisterre' without its rhyming anchor to her most famous poem, 'Prayer'? Language is alive and organic.
Our anchors are ever changing!