MARBL’s Duffy: The BiographerPosted: November 18, 2011
Duffy evidently had worked out a beginning and ending to “The Biographer” that she liked, as the various revisions usually had the same of both, with only minor editing such as in word choice. It was the middle sections where the most revision occurred. In one version she left the core of the poem blank, with a circle around the word “joyride” (at least it looked like that word). Apparently at that time she planned to work on it later, though I’m not certain what she had in mind by using the word “joyride.” In another she left a note to herself to look up “names of streets.” I assume that lead to the reference of the Hungerford Bridge, which is a bridge that goes over the Thames River.
Additionally, the structures of the early versions of the poem are different from the currently printed one. Originally the lines were longer, making the length of the poem shorter page-wise. (For example, the first and second lines of the poem as it is now were originally one line.)
Intriguingly, in both a tentative list of poems to be in “Mean Time” and in the transcript of “Mean Time” itself, “The Biographer” was not listed. This means that the poem was added in very late, if not last minute. What made Duffy (or her editor) decide to put in the poem at such a late point?
In addition, though not related to “The Biographer” specifically, in the tentative title list, in the area where one writes the title of the paper, the word “Close” was crossed out and replaced with “Mean Time.” Looking for my assigned poems, I also came across poems that didn’t make it into either The World’s Wife or Mean Time. One of these was “Close.” Apparently, Duffy changed her mind on what poems to include in her collection, and possibly, then, the entire theme of Mean Time.