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Carol Ann Duffy: Mean Time

20. First Love

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About this Lecture


In this module, we read through the nineteenth poem in the collection, 'First Love', focusing in particular on: (i) the range of senses – sights, smells and sounds; (ii) the movement from the sound of the first love's name ("I speak your name") to the smell of "unseen flowers" that "suddenly pierce and sweeten the air"; (iii) the image of the speaker standing naked at the window; (iv) the note of sadness in the star "long dead … the size of a tear"; (v) the impact of the word "stammers", cf. the butterfly in 'Litany', which "stammered" itself in the speaker's "curious hands"; and (vi) the unexpectedness of the word "faithfulness" in the final stanza.


In this course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Carol Ann Duffy’s 1993 collection, ‘Mean Time'. After an introductory module in which we think about the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy in general and the collection as a whole – and especially the implications of its title – the course continues with a reading and analysis of each of the thirty-nine poems in the collection, one by one.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2021, March 01). Carol Ann Duffy: Mean Time - First Love [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Carol Ann Duffy: Mean Time – First Love." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 01 Mar 2021,