‘Write’ by Carol Ann Duffy is a three-stanza poem which is separated into one set of seven lines, one set of six, and one set of ten lines. This piece is written in free verse, meaning that there is no consistent or set rhyme scheme, nor is there a specific metrical pattern to which each line adheres.
While reading the poem one should take note of the remarkable use of personification utilized by Duffy and how it allows her images to take on a life of their own.
The poem begins with the speaker describing herself as laying in a field. It is here that the sun beats down on her with the tenderness of a lover’s kisses. It touches her skin and burns her until she is “whitened ash.” This process allows her to move freely into the sky and look down at where she was previously.
The next stanza comes as a complete contrast to the first. In these lines, the speaker describes being at the mercy of the cool river. It “probes” her and takes over the movements of her body.
The final section is used to introduce a “you” into the piece and it becomes clear that all of the experiences were utilized in an effort to accurately describe, through writing, what her love feels like.
Write that the sun bore down on me,
kissing and kissing, and my face
still flattened the grass, to end as dust
in the eyes of my own ghost.
The speaker begins this piece with a repetition of the title, “Write.” It is clear from the first words that this poem is going to be concerned with the art of writing and what one can accomplish through words. This same word will be repeated at the start of each of the following two stanzas as well, allowing it to work as a short refrain and reminder of the general theme.
In the first line, the speaker begins by detailing a vibrant and poignant experience. This experience, as all those which are to be described in the following lines, has been created as an ode to writing. They were constructed in an effort to show the power of words and what one can accomplish with them.
The speaker describes how the “sun bore down on [her].” It was a heavy and powerful presence which was hard to ignore. This is something that is relatable to all readers, immediately allowing one to place themselves in the speaker’s position. Although the sun is unyielding in its light and heat, when it touches the speaker’s skin it is more like “kissing.” The poet has chosen to repeat this word twice as the warmth and light move over her body. They are touching every part of her; although it is her face she focuses on in the next line.
She states that as the sun pounded gently down on her she could feel her face get redder and then blacker. It was moving through different intensities of heat, just like a fire would, until it gets “whitened to ash.” The sun is stripping her of her skin and eventually her physical body.
The next lines continue this same short narrative and state that after she was turned to ash she was…
…blown away by the passionate wind
Over the fields
The sun has rid her of her mass and allowed her to flow freely from one place to another. Once again the poet utilizing personification, this time when she refers to the wind as “passionate.” It does not move her violently or carelessly, it is like a lover.
By the end of this stanza, the speaker has ended up above her previous location. She was in a field, laying in the grass, but now with her new lack of form, she floats above the ground. From where she is located she can see her…
still flattened the grass.
She is able to discern exactly where she was before because of how her body pushed down the grass beneath it. The scene beneath her is now “dust.” It ended, and now as a “ghost” she looks down upon it.
as I drowned in belief.
The second stanza, which is made up of five lines, describes another surrealistic experience which can only be accurately portrayed through writing.
The speaker begins by saying that rather than writing about the field and the sun, she could write about the river which
Held [her] close in its arms
The poet is again using personification to give her setting and the elements the speaker interacts with, real life. One is able to empathize with the world easier when it is portrayed as being sentient and capable of decision-making.
There was a time, she states. In which the river, like another lover, held her in its arms. With its “cold fingers” it touched her skin. This is a drastic change from the situation which was previously described. Before the speaker was burning up in the sun, now she is in the cold water with the river’s “cool tongue probing” her mouth.
All throughout these lines, the speaker does not have any control over her own situation. She is taken by the sun and then taken by the river. In this case, the river does its best to show her its “love.” In fact, it repeats over and over again in her ears “love love love.” She is so full of its presence, and of its words, that she “drowned in belief.” The speaker has been taken in by the intensity of these experiences and submitted herself fully to them.
Then write the moon
pressing and pressing my bones
into the ground.
In the last stanza, which is longer than the preceding two, the speaker writes of “the moon.” It too is given the ability to move as any human would and is described as coming down from the sky “in its silver boots.” It has not come just to court the speaker, but to “kick [her] alive.” It is there with a purpose.
The speaker also describes the stars and how they remain in the sky but act as a “mob of light.” They are unassailable and uncontrollable. Their light cannot be put out, just as they cannot be stopped from…
Chanting a name, yours.
This is the first time that the speaker has referred to another in her surrealistic experiences of love. At this point, it becomes clear that all that was described in the first two stanzas were done in an effort to depict what her current love feels like. Now it is time to turn to the true source of that love and the obsession she is feeling into regarding her lover.
In the last five lines of the poem the speaker moves to another location within the dreamscape of her love. She places herself in “the dark church of the wood.” It is here, amongst the references to religion and marriage, that she prepares herself for her “honeymoon.”
She knows that she will “write the night.”Before it has even happened she knows it will be “sexy as hell” and a series of the moment which will be punctuated by the “pressing and pressing” of her “bones / into the ground.” The last lines truly show the extent and power of her love. This person is able to control her as the sun and river do, as well as push her deep into the ground. Although all the statements are made as metaphors, they serve their purpose in showing the power of writing and as well as its ability to depict one’s emotions.