The Comedy of The World’s Wife

When we were first introduced to Carol Ann Duffy prior to reading her in class, we were told about the scenario of her switching publishers because she believed The World’s Wife was more like pop culture poetry than her previous works. After reading the first half of the book of poetry, I agree. Many of her pieces in The World’s Wife utilize allusions to common stories, fairy tales, fables, or whatever else you may call them. The way Duffy uses these allusions reminds me of the way traditional poets from the past use mythological references to add layers to their poems. Duffy’s use of these characters push her poetry into the mainstream because they become more relatable to people who are not accustomed to reading poetry or dealing with literature. In fact, a friend of mind also attended the reading as a part of another class assignment. He was supposed to profile Duffy and instead left the venue telling me that he doesn’t usually enjoy poetry but he wanted to read more of Duffy’s work.


I believe that many people find poetry hard to relate to or confusing because it often deals with difficult themes like those found in Selling Manhattan. However, those themes are mostly absent from The World’s Wife. Replacing poems that focus on death and loneliness are humorous poems. The poem that I think encapsulates Duffy’s goal is “Mrs. Darwin.” Consisting of only five lines, “Mrs. Darwin” reads like a short joke with a punch line at the end, and it works. “Mrs. Darwin” elicited the most laughs out of the crowd at the reading and it was by far the shortest. Duffy’s The World’s Wife is unlike any other poetry I have ever read and I think that was her goal. She wanted to reach out to the readers who are not comfortable with poetry and invite them in with poems that were fun and easy reads.

asy reads.

2 thoughts on “The Comedy of The World’s Wife”

  1. I definitely laughed because of “Mrs. Darwin”. Apart from the humor, I found it to also be highly profound. My read of the poem motivates me to consider that Darwin may have gotten the idea that all species share a common ancestor from his wife. In a way, the poem places her as the impetus that allows Darwin to see that organisms with different taxonomical classifications seem to share certain features. It speaks to the maxim that behind every great man, there is a woman. It also reenforces the notion that great discoveries are never had in a vacuum and that the “great man” histories that we are told are overly simplistic and inaccurate. Science is a collaborative endeavor!

  2. I agree that the themes found in “Selling Manhattan” were scarce if present at all in “The World’s Wife.” While reading, I also noticed many poems that focused on Greek mythology and children’s poems, like Little Red Riding Hood.

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