Poetry commentary on "Originally" by Carol Ann Duffy

Essay by wmsseanHigh School, 12th gradeA+, October 2014

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Commentary on "Originally"

Assignment: write a full length commentary on the poem "Originally" by Carol Ann Duffy

Who as a child has never been terrified by the harshness of moving? "Originally", written by Carol Ann Duffy in 1994, appeals to our inner feelings of belonging and the fear of losing our home. We follow the memories of a third-person speaker who recalls the first time she moved as a child. On a superficial level, the poem appears to be the story of a child who becomes desperate after moving to a new place and how this event produces nostalgia, then the feeling of being a stranger, but finally adaptation. Yet on a deeper level, this poem also questions the whole idea of origins: Do we ever truly belong anywhere? And, if so, where do we belong?

The first stanza creates the mood of nostalgia with the theme of the broken memories of childhood.

As the speaker remembers being in a car, leaving her (or his, this is unclear) former house, her brothers are crying and she is staring "at the eyes of a blind toy", creating a sense of her loneliness and the emptiness in her feelings. The children are all sad and nostalgic, and the lack of a gender for the speaker adds to the universal feeling of childhood traumas, inviting the reader to relate on a personal level. The sensory images in this stanza appeal to our vision and hearing, but in a confusing way. For example, the words "turn of the wheels" and "mother singing" clearly create the sad sounds in the environment, while the image of a "red room/which fell through the fields" suggests almost a sense of violence, like falling down or bleeding, but in a more abstract way. The alliteration of "red/room" and "fell/fields"...