Selling Manhattan – The Second Half

The first half of Carol Ann Duffy’s poems in Selling Manhattan heavily focused on themes consisting of death, illness, and mental instability. However, in the latter half of this book of poetry the themes do not have clear common themes as before. The string of poems from the pages of 47 to 52 tell a story of separation from a love by an ocean and that idea picks up again with the final three poems.

Photo by Dschwen Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Dschwen Wikimedia Commons

The speaker is in an unfamiliar land and cannot be comforted by the haven of loving arms. But in between those poems that discuss the struggle of a long distance relationship in a foreign land, there are cryptic poems like Scraps, Stealing, Three Paintings, and Big Sue and Now Voyager. Those works were difficult for me to give meaning to and I hope others can illuminate the ideas behind them in class.

The one poem that stood out to me in this reading was Mouth, With Soap. It made me think of an uptight woman who might chastise her children for aligning themselves with pop culture. For example, there are people who denounce J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series because they believe it supports witchcraft and its practice, but it has positive themes. The woman believes she is protecting herself against evil influences in the world but in reality she is only censoring herself and limiting her freedoms. The “constant drizzle in her heart” (44) could be the personality and uniqueness within herself that is dripping away into censorship and rotting away inside her. Eventually, her commitment to a perceived purity will leave her empty.

3 thoughts on “Selling Manhattan – The Second Half”

  1. I completely agree with the comparison you made with the beginning and end of the book. It’s interesting that the first half was more focused on death and tragedy while the ending was most focused on separation and distance. I wonder if there was a reason “Selling Manhattan” was put together this way.

  2. It’s so much more enriching to read a book of poetry rather than just a few random poems from the author. I picked up on that shift in her themes as well. Rather than a “happy ending” it’s sort of a “lonely ending”.

  3. I’m going to attempt to describe what I think of “Stealing.” There are many areas where we can ask questions: who is “I?” Who is he/she talking to? I think the purpose of this poem is to explore the reasons why people steal. My first reaction was that it may be because of the adrenaline rush and the thrill. In the poem, as soon as the individual steals the snowman, they boot it because the snowman has already been stolen and is no longer valuable to them. I get the vibe that this person is seeking attention because they often break into houses without taking anything at all. Why else steal if not for material gain?

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