Exploring “Recognition” in MARBL

Artists do not create without inspiration and Carol Ann Duffy is no different.

Woman at mirror, circa 1930s: Seattle Municipal Archives
Woman at mirror, circa 1930s: Seattle Municipal Archives

Taped down to the first page that contains a draft of her poem Recognition, is an aged and browned newspaper clipping. Not knowing the context of the clipping, I perceived it to be from maybe an advice column of sorts. The clip says “From Mrs. Rosemary,” and then a woman talks about how she has come to a place in her life where she doesn’t recognize the untidy woman in the mirror anymore and felt obligated to apologize to her reflection because she could’ve been so much more. With that inspiration – next to doodles of three-dimensional cubes and the clipping – Duffy jotted the ending to the poem, “sorry sorry sorry.”

Duffy was clearly struck by what she had read. Right away she takes a blurb that is only a couple of short sentences long – that she might have stumbled upon in her morning paper – and gives life to it. Duffy only took three rewrites to come up with a working draft that consists of eight stanzas like the published version, with only minor edits to word choices.

The final working draft that appears in the manuscripts that I looked at was written in silvery ink compared to the thick black ink she uses everywhere else. Additionally, the first versions of the poem use three stanzas with six lengthy lines before she dices them apart for her more finalized version that is eight stanzas, each of them with four lines.

Recognition fits nicely into the overarching theme of Selling Manhattan, which is Duffy’s ability to speak from the point of view of another person regardless of how foreign or even deranged that perspective may be. The fact that Duffy was inspired by a newspaper clipping shows me that Selling Manhattan was built with things that caused Duffy to stop and consider the possibility of a foreign existence, whether that existence be foreign physical, emotional, or mental.



One thought on “Exploring “Recognition” in MARBL”

  1. Informative reporting! This is relevent information for my own paper 🙂 Its interesting that Duffy uses a dramatic monologue for a poem like “Recognition” in which she bases the speaking character on a person she has heard or read about, as she does the same sort of thing for all of The World’s Wife.

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