(Original post by The Lyceum)
Agreed! did you know Duffy is our poet laureate now? Oh what a far cry, I do recall interesting discussions with a rabid feminist over her poetry, good times.
Hmm, her poetry's obviously used in exams a lot because it fits into the markscheme mentality. It just seems so flaccid and lazy. Yes, it's ideological, but in the most trite way (and explicitly ideological poetry rarely works anyway). I was just looking at this study guide: http://www.teachit.co.uk/armoore/poetry/duffy.htm
"Is Elvis's sister (as imagined in the poem) a more attractive person than she would be if she were a big star like him?"
"How does Carol Ann Duffy make use of Elvis's song titles and lyrics in the poem?"
"She begins by telling the reader the cause of her troubles - her phrase 'beloved sweetheart bastard' is a contradiction in terms (called an oxymoron)."
She's won great awards and acclaim though, so what could I possibly know?
I wanted to help you with your thankless task, but I couldn't find a great deal on the internet, so here's my penny in the pisspot...
Darwin was, of course, the naturalist who wrote On the Origin of Species (1859), which popularised the idea of evolution -- and a central consequence of this theory was that humans were now believed to have evolved from apes (our closest ancestor is the chimp). (There was a famous debate between Thomas Huxley, known as "Darwin's Bulldog", and Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Oxford, about just this point, i.e. whether we could be related to apes, where personal insults got bandied about.) Darwin sailed out on his ship named the Beagle to the Galapagos Islands and other such exotic places, which is where his ideas came together. But Carol Ann Duffy is here "subverting" that concept of the "great man" who progresses civilization as a force unto himself. Through humour, she puts forward the proposal that -- rather than through calculation, adventure and other typically masculine pursuits -- Darwin could have come to his theory as a result of his wife's off-hand remark/barb, yet Mrs. Darwin would be given none of the credit for her observation that had to be written up and disseminated around the patriarchal establishment to gain any importance or renown. (In reality, Darwin didn't marry until he'd come back from the Galapagos and already done much of the work on his evolutionary theory.) The fact that the poem is formatted as a journal entry brings to mind the journal that Darwin wrote on his expedition (the two short, staccato lines add to this), but his wife's journey is restricted to a trip to the zoo with the family, a much tamer and more "womanly" outing. It could also be said that Mrs. Darwin's remark might show her true feelings towards her husband, whom she sees as distant from her in the way that the chimp is; the fact that he's locked away in a zoo could represent the way that everyone feels as though they have ownership over "Darwin the figure of science" and that she can only observe this from afar. The capitalization of "Him" recalls the way in which the Judaeo-Christian God is commonly referred to, and so brings to mind the way in which Darwin may be equated, or may be in conflict, with God (both in terms of having himself overcome the dominance of God's role in the world as traditionally conceived and in terms of his stature in the annals of Western thought).
Most of that was *******s, but hopefully you'll get something from it. Perhaps more could be said about the structure or the rhyme between "zoo" and "you", but I wouldn't want to venture to say it. G'luck.