2 TitleSaint Valentine's Day, commonly shortened to Valentine's Day,[is an annual commemoration held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions.The day is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine, and was established by Pope Gelacius I in 496 AD.It was deleted from the General Roman Calender of saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI.It is traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines").The day first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.
3 TaskThe title of the poem that we are going to look at is ‘Valentine’.She was asked to pen an original St. Valentine’s poem for the 14th Feb.Clearly we associate associate this day with a day of love.Brainstorm all of the connotations of the title before we read the poem.
4 Strange Love…Now think about unusual everyday objects and how they could be used to represent the idea of love more accurately.You will be given an image of one such object and must think about the ways that this could stimulate ideas that link to the notion of ‘Valentine.’
7 Context This poem is written in the first person. The speaker appears to be the poet, addressing her lover as "you".In fact, Carol Ann Duffy wrote Valentine after a radio producer asked her to write an original poem for St. Valentine's Day.(Valentine was published in 1993, in the collection Mean Time.)But the poem is universal: it could be from any lover to any beloved (for example, there is no indication of the sex of either the "I" or the "you").The poem, on the surface, is about the giving of an unusual present for St. Valentine's Day, but really is an exploration of love between two people.This is a good text to write about, because it has a single central image, which is developed throughout the poem: the onion is an extended metaphor for love.
8 Essay TaskDiscuss a poem that deals with the theme of love in a more unconventional way.Refer to poetic techniques such as; structure, extended metaphor, symbolism and word choice.
10 ‘Valentine’ by Carol Anne Duffy is a poem which explores the theme of love in an unconventional way. One of the most effective ways she does this is through the use of the extended metaphor. Duffy also uses word choice and structure effectively to explore the stages of love that progress as the onion (her symbol of love) is peeled and then finally chopped, to suggest that the speakers absurd gift of an onion to her lover is in fact a much more profound and honest representation of love than gifts traditionally given on St. Valentine’s Day.
11 TitleExplain the importance of the title in underpinning and shattering the reader’s expectations.Words to help:Preconceived ideas/notions… cliched
12 The opening title of the poem ‘Valentine’ clearly suggests St The opening title of the poem ‘Valentine’ clearly suggests St. Valentine’s Day, traditionally a day where lovers mutually exchange tokens that are supposed to signify their love for one another. The title therefore connotes traditional symbols of love such as; hearts, chocolate, cards etc to represent this powerful human emotion. However, in Duffy’s poem she argues that the onion is a more appropriate exploration of love and rejects the conventional commercialism of Valentine’s as indicated initially through her opening line. The title is the first effective way that Duffy rejects the conventional to offer a more honest representation of the poem’s theme.
13 Paragraph 2 - StructureIn this paragraph explain the ways that the structure of this poem is unusual for a love poem.Mention the importance of the title in setting up and then undermining our expectaions.Make a POINT about free verse, why Duffy has used it and how this poem contrasts with more traditional love poetry.Look at the following EXAMPLES and EXPLAIN their structural significance in making this poem unusual:“Not a red rose or a satin heart”“Not a cute card or kissogram”Introduce a new POINT about the importance of the single word lines in the poem.Give an EXAMPLE of a couple of the single word / command –style lines.EXPLAIN their significance.Say how the structure reflects the changing tone of the poem.Say how the structure helps to make this an unconventional love poem?
14 The structure of the poem is highly effective as it consists of six stanzas that concentrate on different aspects of love and reveal Duffy’s conflicting attitudes towards it. The fact that the poem is written in free verse is also apt as it reinforces the argument that Duffy is trying to make: that love is not governed by pattern or order; it is unpredictable, at times chaotic and free. The form/structure of the poem supports this argument as Duffy uses single isolated line to show that she rejects the conventional commercialism of Valentine’s: “Not a red rose or satin heart…Not a cute card or kissogram.”
15 Paragraph 3 – Stanza 2This paragraph should focus on the second stanza beginning “I give you an onion”Topic sentence: In the next stanza Duffy transforms the mundane and ordinary into something poetic and beautiful through the use of the extended metaphor. In doing so she reveals her initial ideas of love.In this you should refer to:The literal and metaphorical aspects of the comparison and what they reveal.The word choice use.The tone created in this stanza.
16 In the second stanza Duffy in effect lists reasons why the onion is an appropriate symbol of love. Firstly, the conventional romantic symbol of the moon is concealed in it, reinforced by the moon being believed to govern women's passions. The brown skin is like a paper bag, and the shiny pale onion within is like the moon. The "light" which it promises may be both its literal brightness and metaphorical understanding (of love) or enlightenment. The removing of the papery outer layers suggests the "undressing" of those who prepare to make love. There may also be a pun (play on words here) as "dressing" (such as French dressing or salad dressing) is often found with onions in the kitchen.
17 Paragraph 4 – Stanza 3Topic sentence: In stanza 3 Duffy extends the metaphor further by comparing the powerful scent of the peeled onion to the more honest and hurtful aspects of love.Discuss the literal and metaphorical comparison of the onion to love, explaining why is unusual but appropriate.Discuss word choice such as “blind” “wobbling” etc.The changing tone by commanding statements such as “here.”
18 The onion is like a lover because it makes one cry The onion is like a lover because it makes one cry. The verb "blind" may also suggest the traditional idea of love's (or Cupid's) being blind. And the onion reflects a distorted image of anyone who looks at it, as if this reflection were a "wobbling photo" - an image which won't keep still, as the onion takes time to settle on a surface. The flavour of the onion is persistent, so this taste is like a kiss which lasts, which introduces the idea of faithfulness which will match that of the lovers ("possessive and faithful...for as long as we are").
19 Paragraph 5 – Stanza 5Topic sentence: In stanza 5 Duffy again offers her unconventional token of love as a more profound and appropriate symbol of love, this time comparing the pungent and overwhelming taste of the raw onion to a lovers kiss.Again discuss the use of the extended metaphor and how it is developed in this stanza.Discuss the tone (“I give…”Discuss the ambiguities suggested in this line through word choice and the element of doubt.Anything else that you find links to essay task.
20 Paragraph 6 – Stanza 6In the final verse Duffy uses tone and the extended metaphor to suggest a warning. The tone becomes forceful and assertive, “take it” and she reveals how the final stages of the onion once cut/ chopped reveal ambiguous and potentially dangerous aspects of love, adopting a much more serious tone to the one of opening optimism.Discuss how the onion is used to highlight ideas of marriage and what Duffy is saying about this.Discuss the changing tone.Discuss the threatening nature of the word choice and the message the reader Is left with at the end of this stanza.
21 The onion is a series of concentric rings, each smaller than the other until one finds a ring the size of a wedding ring ("platinum", because of the colour). But note the phrase "if you like": the lover is given the choice. Thus the poem, like a traditional Valentine, contains a proposal of marriage. There is also a hint of a threat in the suggestion that the onion is lethal, as its scent clings "to your knife". The poet shows how the knife which cuts the onion is marked with its scent, as if ready to punish any betrayal.
22 Paragraph 7 - Conclusion Exemplar conclusion - In conclusion, Duffy creates a much more convincing and profound exploration of love by transforming the onion into a metaphor for this powerful human emotion. She successfully extends this comparison throughout the poem to highlight how the peeled onion is a much more apt metaphor used to depict the evolving relationship. Through this she honestly portrays the aspects of love that are often neglected in superficial expressions and offers a fresh view of this subject matter.