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Analysis of Poem In Your Mind by Carol Ann Duffy

Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print.

Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy And A Summary of In Your Mind

In Your Mind is a free verse poem exploring someone's daydream, an attempt to escape from the reality of the present and travel to another country. There is a strong hint that this someone is a worker who is very bored with their work, who might also be confused, self-questioning.

Carol Ann Duffy creates a tone that is both surreal and slightly disturbing. Here is a person wishing to leave everything behind and fly off to a foreign place, where seagulls, bells and a flute sound in a timeless environment.

You could say that this is a universal wish for all those who, for one reason or another, are caught up in the rat race, are stuck in a dead-end job or simply dream of a better life.

The poem then is idealistic - the speaker has no longer a commitment to their everyday routine and reality, seeking an alternative existence in sunnier climes, in a world they have perhaps dreamt up. Interestingly, this 'new' world still involves working, but at a job they love.

Or could it be that the speaker and 'you' are one and the poem is an informal study of escapism, based on real-time experiences of a holiday, when this person was younger and living and working with that youthful freedom, which we lose when we get older?

Because the poem is set in the mind anything can happen. There are switches in time and tone for example. Surreal moments occur. The moon metaphorically becomes an orange; faces are photographs.

As the poem progresses there is a kind of climax at the end, the person's certainty bringing more light and sound - but back comes reality and real things: newspaper, desk, rain. That English rain, inspiring such a poetic exercise.

In Your Mind

The other country, is it anticipated or half-remembered?

Its language is muffled by the rain which falls all afternoon

one autumn in England, and in your mind

you put aside your work and head for the airport

with a credit card and a warm coat you will leave

on the plane. The past fades like newsprint in the sun.

You know people there. Their faces are photographs

on the wrong side of your eyes. A beautiful boy

in the bar on the harbour serves you a drink – what? –

asks you if men could possibly land on the moon.

A moon like an orange drawn by a child. No.

Never. You watch it peel itself into the sea.

Sleep. The rasp of carpentry wakes you. On the wall,

a painting lost for thirty years renders the room yours.

Of course. You go to your job, right at the old hotel, left,

then left again. You love this job. Apt sounds

mark the passing of the hours. Seagulls. Bells. A flute

practising scales. You swap a coin for a fish on the way home.

Then suddenly you are lost but not lost, dawdling

on the blue bridge, watching six swans vanish

under your feet. The certainty of place turns on the lights

all over town, turns up the scent on the air. For a moment

you are there, in the other country, knowing its name.

And then a desk. A newspaper. A window. English rain.

Analysis of In Your Mind Stanza by Stanza

In Your Mind is a formal looking poem on the page. Four quatrains neatly spaced, six lines in each, so 24 lines. It's a free verse poem so no end rhymes.

First Stanza

The first line is a question which sparks off the whole poem. Rhetorical and open-ended this question also helps the reader focus on time. Is the other country anticipated, that is, going to be visited in the future, or is it half-remembered, known from a visit in the past?

The next five lines flow together and are enjambed (no punctuation at the end of lines so the reader does not really have to pause, halting proceedings) which reflects the mind of the person who dreams of flying off, away from the persistent rain, to a foreign, warm land.

The last line echoes the first as the past fades, with the sun on newspaper print. So a classic daydreaming scenario has this individual skipping work and responsibility, leaving the cold rain behind, the past.

Second Stanza

This individual knows people there, according to the speaker, which suggests a previous visit, a holiday or working holiday? Their faces are photographs/on the wrong side of your eyes....meaning the inside of the eyes, the mind's eye? What could wrong mean in this context? Does he not relish seeing them again?

There's something surreal going on when the beautiful boy asks if men could land on the moon, which is an orange in the process of peeling so there is not a chance of a lunar visitation.

The imagery is strong, the language figurative.

Third Stanza

The syntax is a little odd in parts. A single word here, two words there. It's all quite informal as the faux dialogue continues. We could be going way back in time when a painting is mentioned, lost for 30 years - when the person was young perhaps?

They had a job too, which they loved, the specifics of which aren't mentioned. Life was ideal and relaxed. Close to the sea as seagulls can be heard and a meal of fish easily paid for.

Fourth Stanza

On the way home - home - they get lost but not truly lost as they wander over a blue bridge. They must have been here before, in their mind. This last stanza has the feel of a fairy tale. Six swans fly under the bridge and the feet.

This is all reassuring. Lights come on (a metaphor for clarity of thought?) and a scent fills the air. Momentarily the individual is there, in the other country which they know. But at the last, reality snaps them back into the everyday, where desk, newspaper and English rain dominate.


edexcel Poetry Anthology For English Literature


Carol Ann Duffy | Poet | Scottish Poetry Library

Carol Ann Duffy - Literature (britishcouncil.org)

© 2021 Andrew Spacey


Andrew Spacey (author) from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on January 13, 2021:

Thank you Chitrangada. Glad you enjoyed.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 13, 2021:

Wonderful analysis of the poem.

I am happy to find this on my feed, and comment.

Thank you for sharing this.

Andrew Spacey (author) from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on January 13, 2021:

Appreciate the visit Ivana, thank you.

Ivana Divac from Serbia on January 12, 2021:

A wonderful poem, and a great analysis! Thank you for sharing, I really enjoyed reading this.