DH Final – Cirrus and Duffy

Mean Time

The World’s Wife

In our group’s evaluation of Duffy’s two volumes using Voyant, we found that applying Cirrus to the two collections yielded some interesting results, especially in highlighting certain thematic differences between the two poetry collections. In the Cirrus depiction of both volumes together, there were certain groups of words that were all related to each other. We noticed that there were several body parts among the most frequently mentioned words, as well as several different colors. Along these body parts were “eyes,” “hands,” “face,” “head,” and “lips,” all of which appeared in the Cirrus collective depiction of the two books. The picture also included colors such as, “blue,” “black,” “red,” “gold,” and “white” which also marks a frequent theme in Duffy’s writing.

However, when we divided the two volumes and examined the separate Cirrus feedback, we saw a clear correspondence between the words that appear most often in each volume, and that volume’s corresponding themes. The words that appeared in the Mean Time Cirrus portrayal were often related to the themes of nostalgia and memory. These included words like “dream,” “home,” “time,” and “away” all of which seem to allude to the somewhat mournful tone that is so prevalent in the poems. The word “away” we found to be especially revealing in that it not only hints at the nostalgic perspective of the collection but also at the often grieving tone that Duffy seems to associate with constant change and the passage of time.

On the other hand, we came to realize that most of the colors that appeared in the common Cirrus depiction were especially important in the World’s Wife Cirrus picture, and completely absent in the Mean Time picture. We decided that this again related back to Duffy’s original assessment of her two collections. When she likened The World’s Wife to “popular entertainment” referring to the volume’s accessibility. In creative writing, especially poetry, color descriptions are considered the most basic and easy to comprehend. Describing the color of something is a concrete attribute that is both easy for the author to convey, and easy for the reader to imagine. Thus, it is not the most complex form of physical description. However, in Mean Time, many of the words in the Cirrus picture refer to light and darkness, and other more abstract forms of imagery. Describing something as dynamic as light is a much more difficult concept for a writer than describing the color of something. This again relates to the more complex tone and language that is included in Mean Time as opposed to the simplicity and accessibility that is found in The World’s Wife. Thus, using Cirrus we were able to further investigate Duffy’s original evaluation of her two poetry collections, using the digital tool to elaborate on our own observations.


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