Eurydice Unfolds

Going through the various drafts of Duffy’s poems was definitely interesting, especially when comparing the different writing techniques she used in her different books.  I also thought that seeing how the poems developed draft by draft helped to progress my understanding of the final versions.  I started to look at those stanzas that Duffy had rewritten several times, to see if perhaps they held particular importance to the poem as a whole in order to warrant such attention.  Witnessing the revision process can often afford the reader new insights as to where the main themes of the poem really lie, and what it is that the author wants us to take away from the poem.

Duffy’s poem “Eurydice,” actually unfolded relatively quickly, especially in comparison to the laborious writing process of some of the other poems.  In the initial notes for the poem, dated July 8th of 1996, Duffy lays out the general idea for the poem to reverse the myth it is based on.  That is that Eurydice wants to be in the Underworld as it is the only true escape from her overbearing lover, who manages to follow her even there.  When I initially read “Eurydice” I thought it was an interesting technique to direct the poem at an audience labeled, “Girls,” as the speaker constantly prefaces her sentences with this address.  I wondered if this was Duffy’s plan right off the bat, or if this was something she had decided to add later on.  After reading the drafts I found out that this was, in fact, always a part of the poem though I had thought it may have been an additive of the revision process.  I also found it interesting to see what lines were taken out of the poem.  Among these were “Who could complain?/ Him./ Who could show up on Death’s door/ demanding me back?/ He could,” which Duffy had written near the beginning of the poem.  After reading the final version, I think it was a rewarding decision to cut these lines, and Duffy displayed good restraint in doing so.  While the tone of the poem overall is certainly resentful, I think that these lines are overly sardonic, and would change the speaker’s voice from  bitter to almost bratty.  This, among other decisions Duffy made certainly benefited the poem as a whole.

But as I said, I was surprised by how quickly the poem developed as it took Duffy much fewer drafts than the poem I researched from her other collection, Mean Time.  I was at first extremely impressed by this considering the array of word plays and complicated rhyme scheme at work in the poem.  Duffy uses slant rhymes throughout the poem and also echoes certain sounds such as “Eternal Repose” and “writing poems” on lines fifteen and nineteen respectively.  While I was shocked at first at how quickly Duffy was able to write the poem with these elements, I began to wonder if perhaps this word play is what allowed the poem to be written so quickly.  This is to say that Duffy allowed the rhyme scheme to direct the poem and dictate the path it would take.  Whereas the free verse poems in Mean Time rely solely on content to capture the reader, “Eurydice” and other poems in The World’s Wife use rhyme scheme and word play as a sort of gimmick, which can sometime be distracting from the actual themes of the poems.  Thus, I came to think that perhaps Duffy was able to write this poem in so few drafts because she allowed the rhyme scheme to carry the poem as opposed to scrutinizing every word to make sure it conveyed the appropriate theme.

One Comment on “Eurydice Unfolds”

  1. Ani Deshpande says:

    The evolution of tone over the writing process is very interesting. In many drafts that I saw of poems or as you have noted replacement of a phrase or words could have totally changed the feel of the image conveyed or the poem as a whole. This makes me think of how indefinite characters in a poem are and whether certain people would have liked the poem more in the original draft or not. I think it would be interesting research to see why Duffy changes the tone or feel of the poem from one to other. What inspires her or is it simply her whim?