DUFFY MARBL: “Valentine”

After looking at Carol Anne Duffy’s notes for “Valentine”, the first thing I noticed is that there are several versions of the poem, each with the same title, namely “Valentine”. In the first version, Duffy writes, “Valentine/ Today we say, is commercialized/much more to do with money than with love”. She continues in the second version, “the rhyme in Valentine cards are crude or trite, but you’ll expect one anyway”. From these initial lines, I feel that Duffy was attempting to write a poem about the failure of the ‘Valentine’ to truly express the meaning of love. I feel like she wants to criticize the tradition of the valentine, as she calls valentine cards crude or trite and she says the valentine is commercialized. After these two versions, Duffy writes a version that more closely resembles the final version. The initial notes, however, do contain some of the same metaphors utilized in the final version. For example, the imagery of a “satin heart” and the onion metaphor are present through every version of the poem. From this, it seems that she had some idea of how she wanted to express her interpretation of love. The context of the poem, however, eluded her until the third version of the poem.

In my previous blog post, I noticed several poems that were thematically connected to each other and one of these poems was “Valentine”. Through this string of connected poems, I feel that Duffy is attempting to express the birth, conflicts, struggles and dramatic death of a relationship. In “Valentine”, Duffy writes, “I give you an onion. /It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. /It promises light/ like the careful undressing of love” (2-5). Duffy uses the image and description of an onion as an object that conceals within it a greater meaning. According to Duffy, as you delve deeper into a relationship or ‘carefully undress it,’ one will experience much more than what he/she may expect initially, as there is a greater meaning within. Based on this, I think that Duffy had a clear vision about what she wanted to achieve by writing this poem. Based on these initial versions and the final version of the poem, Duffy is making the point that love is inherently contradictory, and as a result, it is a complicated phenomenon.


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