‘Moments of Grace’ – An analysis. 

Make a detailed analysis of Duffy’s treatment of love in “Moments of grace” In the poem “Moments of grace”, Carol Ann Duffy adopts the persona of a woman who is looking back at her life. Love and relationships are themes that are consistently found throughout Carol Ann Duffy’s work and it is something that she seems to present with mixed messages. Through a range of poetic and literary devices, Duffy explores different kinds of love in her various poems. 

Through “Moments of grace”, Carol Ann Duffy dramatizes scenes from childhood, adolescence and adulthood, finding moments of grace or consolation in memory, love and language amid the complexities of life. The poem is told through a series of sustained recollections and dreams of the past. Duffy begins the poem by describing a “wordless” state which can be linked to the fourth stanza in which she claims that actions such as kissing the back of the neck are worth more than words. Near the end of the first stanza, it refers to “grace” in the sense of mercy as the speaker is released momentarily from work or present demands. It also carries over with it traces of a more biblical and spiritual meaning in the sense that grace is a gift from God, not strictly deserved but freely given out of God’s mercy. Duffy begins the next stanza with the phrase “shaken by first love” which not only refers to an experience that everyone goes through but it also prefigures the topic of the poem. The word “shaken” suggests a kind of intensity as your first love is a memory that always stays with you. Why “kiss a wall”? Perhaps to practice or perhaps it is a fantasy. Together with the names written on the hands which began to run with the sweat produced by excitement, it is the visual recollection which brings back something of the past. “Hoping I will not feel me breathing too close across time” suggests that her memories are so delicate that even her thoughts might break them. “The chimes of mothers calling in children at dusk” is the present which intrudes into her thoughts drawing her out of her reflective state. She describes her past as “staggering years”, “vanishing scents” and “like a melting balloon”. This hints that the memories of her past are weighing her down and her memories are floating away. She can remember her thoughts but not all of them and she feels a ghost in her own memories. By describing memory as a “caged bird” that will not fly in the next stanza, it reveals that age is a barrier to remembering everything and therefore, her memory is locked up. “A thin skin lies on the language” demonstrates how words can be twisted to mean what you want. Words, actions and verbs offer us possibility and meaning and the potential to do things. “Strangers” like the thin skin on language can offer either everything or nothing as there is no past or history behind them. The final stanza is back in the present and it provides a sense of intimacy. The taking off of the watch and letting a minute “unravel” shows the suspension of time becoming a moment of grace for her due to the sense of intimacy. The final line of the poem shows a moment of grace and makes the poem universal. “Passing, you kiss the back of my neck. A blessing.” Although this is just a simple, everyday action, it was unexpected and means much more to her than any romantic words or phrases. The “blessing” suspends the religious metaphor. This becomes a moment of grace, a blessing from God and a celebration of love. The poem is made universal because we all want to love and be loved and for her, the kiss on the back of the neck is a moment of grace, a small yet touching blessing from God. The love that Duffy tries to explore in this poem is a very pure and spiritual love. Love is something that we as humans often take for granted unintentionally and we do not see it as anything particularly special so we do not truly cherish it. However, it is seemingly insignificant things such as love that makes the woman in this poem’s life more worth living. 


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