New Year

Carol Ann Duffy

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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.

The poem, ‘New Year‘ by Carol Ann Duffy, is from Duffy’s seventh collection ‘Rapture‘, which is something of a departure for the poet. In this collection of poems, the poet has talked about the human love affair, and tried to keep the theme of all her poems from this collection around “love”. These poems show the obsession of a lover with his/her subject. But in all these love poems, there is the same kind of sacred images, the waxing, and waning of a lover. Whether you read ‘You’, ‘the death of love’, ‘Over’, or ‘New Year’, the passion and infatuation of a lover are well-depicted by the poet.

Similarly, in the poem, ‘New Year’, the poet expresses the loss and bereavement of a lover, who is standing at the threshold of an about-to-end year, and welcoming the forthcoming New Year with the hope to get reunited. Though the title of the poem may lead the readers to understand that it will talk about the New Year and all those celebrations related to it. But the poem doesn’t have any such expression, rather it shows the loss and loneliness of a lover waiting and hoping to get reunited with her lover in the coming year.

New Year by Carol Ann Duffy

New Year Analysis

Stanza One

I drop the dying year behind me like a shawl
and let it fall. The urgent fireworks fling themselves
Out of the space around me, standing here, I shape
your absent body against mine. You touch me as the giving air.

Though Carol Ann Duffy was a lesbian since her school days, she never let her readers know about her homosexuality. When she talks of love, gender is never specified. Her expression of love through her poetry is just about love and love. And in this poem too, she is talking about the love of a lover who is depicted remembering what he/she felt while they both were united.

Duffy’s love is intimate, and this is well depicted by the words she uses in her poetry, such as like a shawl – which engulfs and gives warmness when there is shivering cold, love’s fervency, or the flowers of desire. Thus, like many of her love poems, in the poem ‘New Year’, Carol Ann Duffy also expresses the passionate feeling of a lover who is shown missing her beloved or lover at the end of an “about-to-end” year and welcoming the New Year ahead.

In this first stanza of the poem, the speaker is shown as dejected, and the dejection is compared with the passing year, about which the speaker says: “I drop the dying year behind me like a shawl and let it fall,” The speaker says that she is standing in the same space where they passed many of their intimate moments, and today at this last moment of the New Year, she is again trying to shape and feel her lover absent body against her own.

She even remembers the feel of touch, which feels like air, and makes her remind the breathing that they both used to have while making love with each other. She says at this last moment of the New Year; “the urgent fireworks fling themselves against the night, flowers of desire, love’s fervency” – feelings of great warmth and intensity.

Stanza Two

Most far, most near, your arms are darkness, holding me,


fields and motorways and towns, the million lit-up little homes.

In this second stanza of the poem, the speaker is depicted remembering each and every move and movement both of them made and had with each other. The speaker here brings back to her mind, though not knowing his whereabouts, the arms that embraced her passionately and made her forget everything; she compares her lover’s arms to darkness because in between them she used to feel all aloof from the external world, and fully secured from the harsh world. This is an indication of passionate and true love, and this can only be felt when both of them trust each other.

Here also the speaker is talking about the darkness that engulfed her and made her feel fully engrossed in her warm arms. However, in the next line, she is shown to talk about her full trust in her lover when she says: “so I lean back.” It is a well-known fact that we lean on something or someday who we trust will not let us fall. Similarly, the speaker leans back because she fully confides in her lover’s arms.

While remembering those cosy moments, the speaker says she tries to lip-read the heavens above and tries to know what it is talking to the stars. While doing so, she finds that they all are praying for both of them. In the next line, she says when her lover breathes on her skin, “the million lit-up little homes.”

Stanza Three

This love we have, grief in reverse, full rhyme, wrong place,


a vow. Time falls and falls through endless space, to when we are.

In this third and final five lines stanza of the poem, the speaker is shown expressing her desire to meet her lover in the forthcoming year. Talking about the fervency of their love, she further says like all others our love is also flaring to guide the New Year. The speaker is also waiting and welcoming, with hope in the coming New Year, and to pass together all nights and days that will fall in this New Year. Through this stanza, the speaker expresses her wistful sigh and expects her lover to be with her in the upcoming New Year. In the next line, she says that her lover’s mouth has turned into snow and is frozen on her lips, but there is no such warmness that used to be when her lover kissed them.

She can still remember the first kiss that was full of warmth. She says time continues to fall and fall all through the endless space, but when the time of our unison will come. Thus, all through the poem, the poet, Carol Ann Duffy has expressed the intimate love between two lovers, now it is all up to the readers whether this love exists between one male and one female, or it is an account of lesbian love.

However, when I read through the poem, I felt the speaker is missing her female lover, and this is well-depicted by the use of words in the poetry from start to end. The kind of passion and intimacy the poet has tried to show through this poem, it brings in front of me an imaginative picture of two females making intimate love with each other, feeling the warmness of each other’s arms, and that too in the darkness, and the passionate kiss they give to each other while on the bed. Please mind it is just my imagination after reading the poem.

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Dharmender Kumar Poetry Expert
Dharmender is a writer by passion, and a lawyer by profession. He has has a degree in English literature from Delhi University, and Mass Communication from Bhartiya Vidhya Bhavan, Delhi, as well as holding a law degree. Dharmender is awesomely passionate about Indian and English literature.
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