More than 20 poems are found in The Feminine Gospels, all about women, some humorous, some more serious in tone, drawn from the female experience.
In an interview printed in The Bookseller, Carol Ann Duffy states that what she was trying to find truth about female issues. She states: “What I was trying to do was use the idea of gospel truth: in a sense the gospels are a tall story told as truth, so these poems were about trying to find truth about particularly female issues, but doing it within tall stories. So I’m telling unlikely stories such as a woman growing taller and taller or a woman with a map of her home town marked on her skin, and in so doing it’s revealing something true- not literally, but maybe psychologically or emotionally.”
There are poems about famous women and about types of women: Queens, high school students, dieters, shoppers.
When reading the poem Beautiful, you will know the subjects without their names being mentioned. Through the ages, famous, beautiful women have been idealized, but their fate has often been connected to powerful men. Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, are all icons of beauty. They can be viewed as women who were powerful in their own particular ways. I think the author has written the poem to show how the end of their stories were tragic; did the beauty they possess give them real power beyond what was granted?
The passage about Princess Diana tells her sad story:
Beauty is fate. They gaped
As her bones danced
In a golden dress in the arms
Of her wooden prince, gawped
As she posed alone
In front of the Taj Mahal,
Betrayed, beautifully pale.
The cameras gibbered away.
Does this poem “write London” because of the world-wide interest in the celebrity of the British monarchy, of which Diana was the epitome?
The Laughter of Stafford Girls’ High is a long poem, telling the impact of the laughter of high school girls on their teachers. The laughter is like an epidemic. The school closes, but lives are changed.
The last few poems are sadder, about grieving for a loved one, wishing they were with you, not reaching them with prayers/poems.
A review of Feminine Gospels may be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2002/sep/14/featuresreviews.guardianreview
“When the truth is told in a tall tale.” The Bookseller 5 July 2002. Literature Resource Center. Web. 28 June 2013