Loud by Carol Ann Duffy explores the power of women’s voices, while also exposing the horrors of the modern world. Duffy suggests that ‘The News’, representing all the bad events of the world, angers the voice of the poem. Due to this, she gets louder and louder. The woman’s voice leaves her body, becoming more energetic and vast.
Duffy begins with an epigraph from a news report. Responding to this news, the central character of the poem ‘shout[s’. Her voice gets louder and louder, leaving her body. The voice is personified and intensified, escaping and being heard across the world. Duffy suggests the importance of female voices, while also featuring the devastating horror of world news.
You can read the full poem here.
Form and Structure
Carol Ann Duffy splits Loud into 8 stanzas. Each of these stanzas has 5 lines, with no rhyme scheme. Although there is no constant rhyme scheme, there are moments of internal rhyme. These moments serve to propel the poem forward, increasing the speed of reading. This acceleration goes hand in hand with the explosive voice of the poem. The fifth line of each stanza is shorter than the rest. In doing this, the final line becomes jarring to read. This disruption is emblematic of the woman’s voice finally breaking free. This could represent the ability of women to transcend the imposition placed on their voices, speaking out about the horrors of the world.
One of the key themes within the poem is the horrors of the modern world. Right from the Epigraph that starts the poem, Duffy demonstrates corruption and tragic circumstances. With political corruption, war-torn countries, and racism, Duffy states there isn’t much to be happy about. Duffy responds to this widespread inequality, pointing at the media as a carrier of this news.
Another theme that Duffy explores within the poem is the female voice. Being a part of the Feminine Gospels anthology, this poem touches on the female experience. Duffy subverts the notion that women must be quiet and orderly. The central character becomes ‘loud’, going against this sexist construct. Duffy’s poem emphasizes the power of the female voice and shows compassion for an unstable world.
Duffy uses asyndeton throughout the poem to add to the chaos of Loud. By connecting many examples or ideas with asyndeton, it seems that the horrific events are endless. One thing after the next is introduced to the poem, the news overwhelming Duffy. Especially in the final stanza, this technique is an important aspect of how Duffy presents the sequential development of women’s voices: ‘loud, loud, louder’.
Another technique that Duffy uses when writing this poem is caesura. Especially with the third stanza, caesura provides a slight moment of pause within the meter. This reflects the perception of women’s silence, the pauses representing this lack of speech. Yet, as the poem continues and the woman becomes more vocal, these caesurae become less common. This could represent the gaining of volume, ‘louder’ as the poem progresses.
Stanzas One and Two
The News had often made her shout,
she could roar.
Duffy uses the opening line to emphasize the key verb of the poem, ‘shout’. Indeed, the syntax places this word in the key place of the first line. Duffy then places an endstop after the word, furthering the emphasis placed on ‘shout’. This moment of breaking silence is incredibly important, being the catalyst for the following events of Loud. This use of syntax is repeated on the final line of the first stanza. Duffy places emphasis on ‘loud’, furthering the vocal impact of the first stanza.
The harsh consonance plosive of ‘p’ in ‘ripped’ mirrors the brutality of the explosive voice. Her voice springs from her body, ‘ripped out of her throat’, Duffy compounding the extremity of the moment.
The voice is represented by light, ‘a flash of light in the dark’, signaling the positive impact that women’s voices are brining. Light is understood as a metaphor for positivity, with ‘dark’ being negativity, the voice lighting up the dark.
Throughout the whole of the second stanza, Duffy uses many caesuras. Considering she is discussing how ‘Before, she’d been easily led’, this can represent the stereotype of a silent or quiet woman. Duffy uses the metrical pauses that caesura initiates to reflect this stereotype. The fourth line slows into the fifth undisrupted, the use of enjambment reflecting her breaking out of the disrupted meter. This engenders the idea of gaining her voice, words beginning to flow easier.
Stanzas Three, Four, Five
She practiced alone at home, found
in the cave of world
Duffy symbolizes the freedom that ganging a voice can give through the ‘huge bird’. A ‘bird’ is often a symbol of flight and freedom, this therefore symbolizing women breaking from the constraints of society. Duffy furthers the combination of women and nature imagery, ‘uttering lightning’. Nature is often a symbol of power within the literature, Duffy attaching this power to the female voice.
The use of hyphens within the fifth stanza, ‘words were -… – gibberish, crap’ is a moment in which the news breaks through the female narrative. The strong reply to this, ‘gibberish, crap’ reflects the woman’s fury at the news. Acting as the messenger which delivers images and stories of horrific circumstances around the world, Duffy villanizes the ‘News’.
Stanzas Six, Seven, Eight
Her voice stomped through the city, shouting the odds, shaking the
louder, the News.
Continuing her use of hyperbole, Duffy then personifies the female voice. It has incredible power, ‘stomped through the city’ and ‘shaking the bells’ as she goes. Women’s voices have become all-powerful, combing with nature to overwhelming the world. The female voice gains the power of the ‘sea’, able to rebel against the ‘moon’ and send it ‘away’. The rejection of the moon’s pull on the sea could be emblematic of the female voice breaking out of the constraints of the patriarchy, speaking out against suppression.
Duffy uses harsh consonance again in the eighth stanza, ‘prayers of the priest’. At this point in the poem, the voice has become so loud that it is encompassing a whole world of rage. The plosive ‘p’ across this phrase cuts through the narrative, reflecting this rage through the sound of the words.
Asyndeton closes the poem, event after event overwhelming the woman. Although she gets ‘loud, loud, louder’, representing the gaining of power within the female voice, the poem ends on ‘the News’. The finality of this image could display how the ‘News’ is yet more powerful. Even after all the female voice has done, the horrors of the world are still too great. Duffy ends the poem on a chilling image, revealing how the ‘News’ can overwhelm everything that has come before.
It is interesting how the poem is cyclic, the epigraph, and the final line both referencing the horrors of the news. This could suggest that there is always a worse event going on in the world. We just wait for the News to realize and send us the terrible story. Duffy’s poem ends on a gloomy tone, the female voice still not rising above the drowning noise of how terrible our world has become.
Duffy uses Loud to respond to the sexist notion that women must be silent and quiet. The idea that a woman is ‘bossy’ if she speaks out has been a sexist idea for much of the modern era. It is only in recent years that activists have sought to dismantle the sexism behind these concepts. Indeed, Duffy uses Loud to display how incorrect this idea can be. Duffy presents a woman who rejects the stereotype of silence, using her voice to advocate for change.
Duffy similarly explores the ruthlessness of the media in War Photographer. The cold, unconcerned, nature of the media is displayed in both of these poems.
The female voice is a central theme in Anon and The Virgin’s Memo. Yet, those poems explore the obstruction and silencing of the female voice. Loud rebels against these notions, showing a woman gaining power with her voice.