Text by Carol Ann Duffy

‘Text’ by Carol Ann Duffy is all about the text messages we type on our mobile phones. This short poem belongs to her poetry collection, “Rapture” (2005). The former poet laureate meditates on the activity of texting and shares her thoughts regarding it in this poem. She is actually deliberating over the change in our mode of communication. According to Duffy, texting or sending short messages using our mobile devices has become a popular mode of conversation between friends and family members. The poem makes it clear that the poetess also uses it. But she is not happy with such a soundless conversation.

Text by Carol Ann Duffy

 

Summary of Text

Text’ by Carol Ann Duffy is a short poem on the poetic feelings regarding the modern format of communication, “texting”.  

Carol Ann Duffy discusses how she feels while texting her dear ones in her poem, ‘Text’. At the beginning of the poem, the poetess reads some messages on her mobile phone repetitively. While reading those text messages she feels that the process of sending and receiving messages is somehow mechanical. The message which she receives on her phone is like a note in a “broken chord”. She can’t even imagine the person who is actually sending those messages to her. As a result, she feels dejected for the mental distance, texting has created in her world.

You can read the full poem here.

 

Structure of Text

Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Text’ is a short lyric. Its language is economical and direct. It has a compact structure containing only 14 lines. The lines are divided into 7 couplets which don’t rhyme altogether. The following words in the poem; “third” and “absurd”, “blurred” and “heard” rhyme at the end of line 6 and 8, line 12 and 14 respectively. Being a modern poem, it doesn’t have a conventional rhyme scheme.

If we scan the ‘Text’ metrically, we can find that the poem is composed of iambic dimeter and trimeter alternately. There are some anapaestic and trochaic variations that make the sound scheme of the poem more interesting. In the second line, “We text, text, text”, readers can find an occasional foot called “spondee” in which two syllables are stressed side by side. Having such variety in metrical structure, the poem’s sound scheme becomes more engaging to the readers.

 

Literary Devices in Text

Literary devices play an important role in Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Text’. Those devices help the poetess to make her thoughts more vibrant to readers. We can find such a rhetorical device called simile in the first two lines of the poem. Here Duffy compares her “mobile” to “an injured bird”. Readers can scan this line again and find another figure hidden between the lines. This hidden device is a metaphor. The word “tend” makes it clear to us that the poetess is actually referring to her mobile phone as her pet.

“We text, text, text”, is an example of palilogy in which a word is repeated in succession for the sake of emphasis. This line has another literary device which is known as asyndeton. Asyndeton is a figure of speech in which necessary conjunction is absent. The same device also applies to the lines, “I re-read your first,/ your second, your third…”

“Broken chord” is a metaphor for text messages. Broken chord literally means, a chord broken into a sequence of notes. According to the poetess, when we text, we send and receive messages like a broken chord without a symphony. In the poem, “xx” is another metaphor. The English people generally use this sign as a note of affection at the end of a casual letter. Here the poetess means that she tries to find the words or signs which convey her dear one’s affection to her.

The last two lines present the essence of the poem. At the same time, it contains a literary device called epigram. Epigram is a brief statement that seems absurd at first. But reading it for the second time unfolds the truth to us. Using this epigram, the poetess points out that texting is a visual mode of communication. Although we apparently feel like talking to a person while texting, in reality, we just see those messages on our screens.

 

Analysis of Text

Lines 1–4

I tend the mobile now

(…)

our significant words.

In the first four lines of ‘Text’, Carol Ann Duffy directly makes her idea clear to the readers. She is talking about text messaging commonly known as text. In our modern world, we treat our mobile phones as our pets. Like us, she tends her phone as “an injured bird”. Thereafter she refers to the habit of texting which has become an inseparable part of our lives. We spend long hours on this medium of short conversation and often text our “significant words” to our dear ones.

 

Lines 5–8

I re-read your first

(…)

feeling absurd.

Carol Ann Duffy shares her habit of texting and what she feels about it, in the next four lines of ‘Text’. The poetess reads the messages sent by one of her close friends repetitively. She tries to find some adorable notes in those messages. But somehow this process seems meaningless to her. The format of such kind of communication leaves her with a sense of loneliness. At the time of texting, she apparently feels to be with someone. But in reality, she sees some words on her screen without getting the sound of the sender. It is not the words but the sound in a person’s words which makes them so dear to us.

 

Lines 9–14

The codes we send

(…)

will ever be heard.

In the last six lines of ‘Text’, Carol Ann Duffy visualizes text messages as some mechanical “codes”. A language which is a living entity of culture has now become a lifeless medium of communication for technological advancements. Duffy compares texting to “a broken chord”. This phrase has a deep and interesting meaning in the poem. A broken chord refers to a chord or music in which the musical notes are played in succession. While messaging we also send and receive texts in succession. When we talk to someone in person, there is harmony and spontaneity. In messaging it never happens in that way.

After failing to feel the auditory aspects of texting Carol Ann Duffy tries to imagine the visual aspects of the sender. She says, “I try to picture your hands,/ their image is blurred.” Her statement makes it clear she also fails this time. Being an instrumental mode of communication, it is never possible to picture the person who sends messages to the poetess.

At last, the poetess utters a harsh reality. She tells the readers, “Nothing my thumbs press/ will ever be heard.” It is true that messaging being a visual mechanism of communication can’t deliver our feelings to a person. It just sends our codified words nothing else.

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