Carol Ann Duffy

‘Deportation’ appears in Carol Ann Duffy’s Somerset Maugham Award winner book of poetry “Selling Manhattan” (1987). This piece speaks on themes of exile, linguistic supremacy, and cultural dominance.

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Carol Ann Duffy

Nationality: England

Carol Ann Duffy is considered to be one of the most significant contemporary British writers.

She is recognized for her straightforward, unrelenting approach to gender issues.

Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Deportation’ is told from the perspective of a person who is deported from Britain. Like her poems from the poetry collection “Selling Manhattan,” Duffy uses a unique style to throw light on the theme of exile. She expresses the thoughts that might be hovering in a person’s mind who is rejected from a country where he tries to fit in. The cultural and linguistic dominance in Britain is depicted through the eyes of an immigrant.


‘Deportation’ by Carol Ann Duffy is a type of persona poetry, in which an immigrant deported from Britain speaks of his experience and thoughts.

This poem is spoken from the perspective of a speaker who is deported from a foreign land. Being lost, he feels like an alien amidst the foreign culture where deportation officials utter “jargons” he is unable to understand. He cannot even understand why they are unkind to him or others like him. The speaker has lost not only his only love of life but also his basic identity. In such a lost state, he seeks solace in a space where he can exist as he is.


Duffy’s ‘Deportation’ is a dramatic monologue that is written from the first-person point of view. The speaker or the lyrical persona of this piece is an immigrant who is deported from the country he is inhabiting. Duffy reveals the mental state of the speaker by his utterance. The overall poem is written in a specific structure. Each stanza, consisting of five lines, is followed by a short stanza. Its length decreases as the poem progresses. Besides, the poem does not contain a specific rhyme scheme or meter. It is in free verse.

Literary Devices

The important literary devices of this piece are mentioned below.

  • Enjambment: It occurs throughout ‘Deportation’. For example, the lines of the first stanza are enjambed for maintaining the flow.
  • Metaphor: “Love is a look/ In the eyes in any language,” metaphorically compares “love” to a “look in the eyes”.
  • Irony: “I used to think the world was where we lived,/ in space…” The quoted line ironically depicts the theme of absurdism.
  • Alliteration: Love is a look,” “I used to think the world was where we lived,” “Form F.,” etc.
  • Imagery: Duffy uses visual imagery of hearse taxis moving towards the terminal in drizzle and a bittersweet apple to match the eyes of the speaker’s wife.

Detailed Analysis

Lines 1–8

They have not been kind here. Now I must leave,

the words I’ve learned for supplication,


in space, one country shining in big dark.

I saw a photograph when I was small.

Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Deportation’ refers to a particular group of men by “they” in the first line. They are none other than the deportation officials that can be decoded from the title. According to the poetic persona, who is an immigrant and recently deported from a country, the officials are not kind to those who have immigrated to their country.

He has begged not to deport him and also expressed his gratitude to them for giving him a place to live. Still, they did what they were ordered to do. That’s why the speaker remarks that the expressions of “supplication” and “gratitude” will remain unused. The reference hints at another interesting idea. It depicts what the linguistic minority feels in a foreign country.

Duffy uses a metaphor in the following line. She compares “love” to an expression of the eyes. It is a language through which two souls connected with each other without using any audible words. She uses this metaphor for depicting how cold and unkind the officials are to the immigrant. They have not shown mercy to him, “not this year,” but in the previous years too. The officials do not accept a person as a mere human being.

In the following lines, the speaker describes his native country as a “space” where he lives mentally in the present. When he sees his childhood photograph, it creates a big space of darkness in his mind. These lines tap on the theme of absurdism.

Lines 9–15

Now I am Alien. Where I come from there are few jobs,


in one another’s arms. We are not strong enough.

Duffy’s speaker compares himself to an “alien” in the country he has immigrated to in these lines. This term becomes more important as it aptly describes how the immigrants are treated by the natives. In the speaker’s country, the youth are sullen and hopeless due to joblessness. It seems the speaker immigrated for this reason. The youth of his country don’t dream. How can a person dream if the pangs of hunger torture his soul?

The speaker shifted to this foreign land to seek a job. He got one and settled down there with his family. His beloved and his only child are all he had in his life. When the child was an infant, they compared her to a shoot of a plum tree. The last sentence breaks in the middle. It means the speaker has something to tell the listener but is unable to say so.

In this foreign land, the speaker thinks they will tire each other out. They are not happy in their life as they cannot find a place to resort in hard times. However, they can seek solace in one another’s arms. The last part of this line is connected with the idea of the next stanza.

Lines 16–21

They are polite, recite official jargon endlessly.


I am no one special. An ocean parts me from my love.

In this section of ‘Deportation,’ the lyrical voice refers to the “jargon” used by the officials. He has mentioned they are not strong in that country. It means they are dominated linguistically or culturally there. The polite officials pile their culture on the immigrants.

The speaker has filled the “Form F.” to reside in Room 12, Box 6. The room is so small that he finds himself encapsulated both physically and mentally. The “Building of Exile” is the place where others like him lead a suffocating life. To create a contrast, the speaker remarks he felt insignificant in front of a mountain of his native country. But, here he is treated like a non-existent identity.

In the following lines, the speaker talks about his wife’s death. He can remember the day when she died. The hearse taxis crawling down the road in drizzle remind him of how she passed away. Duffy uses the metaphor of “ocean” to describe the distance between the speaker and his beloved.

Lines 22–26

Go back. She will embrace me, ask what it was like.


without you I am nowhere. It was cold.

In this section, Duffy talks about how the speaker badly wants to return to his lover. He is sure that if she were alive, she would embrace him, and ask his whereabouts. This thought breaks again in the middle. It is an example of the stream of consciousness technique.

After her death, he had to fill another form. There was a space to write some identification marks of his wife. He mentioned the color of her eyes. Using his creative energy, he compares her eyes to the color of a bittersweet apple. He emphasizes that the color matches her eyes exactly. Lastly, he adds without his beloved he exists nowhere. The chilling loneliness makes him more vulnerable after the deportation.

Historical Context

The poem ‘Deportation’ was published in Carol Ann Duffy’s collection of poems “Selling Manhattan”. It was published in 1987 and won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1988. In this collection, Carol Ann Duffy’s poems utilize the dramatic monologue to voice the suffering of the immigrants. Those who are voiceless and insignificant in a linguistically and culturally dominant country, are given representation in this collection. In ‘Deportation,’ Duffy speaks from the perspective of an immigrant who is deported. His mental state is described vividly in this piece.

Explore the greatest poems of Carol Ann Duffy.


What is ‘Deportation’ by Carol Ann Duffy about?

Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Deportation’ is about a deported immigrant and how he feels insignificant in a foreign country.

When was ‘Deportation’ published?

This poem was published in Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry collection “Selling Manhattan” in 1987.

What type of poem is ‘Deportation’?

It is a dramatic monologue, or specifically persona poetry. This poem is written in free verse and told from the first-person point of view.

What is the theme of ‘Deportation’?

The poem taps on the themes of immigration, cultural supremacy, and linguistic dominance.

Who is the speaker of this poem?

The speaker of this piece is an immigrant who is deported from Britain.

Similar Poems

The following list contains a few poems that similarly tap on the themes present in Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Deportation’.

You can also read about these moving depression poems and poems about missing someone.

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A complete expert on poetry, Sudip graduated with a first-class B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature. He has a passion for analyzing poetic works with a particular emphasis on literary devices and scansion.
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