In an epigraph to this astonishing collection of poems, Carol Ann Duffy quotes from Shakespeare’s play, Two Gentleman of Verona: “Now no discourse, except it be of love;/ Now I can break my fast, dine, sup and sleep/ Upon the very naked name of love.” This is an apposite quotation for the book feasts upon the idea of love with a searching intensity, hitting the reader in the solar plexus by dint of that supreme poetical mix of thought, feeling and language – that makes poetry the most personal and emotive of art-forms.
Duffy’s skill as poet is on full display in Rapture. Not only is she a master of the poet’s craft in her command of assonance, alliteration, rhyme, rhythm, repetition, metaphor etc. but she is in full control of form, ensuring that the poems are accessible, without losing their heft, and that content and meaning are never lost. Perhaps this explains why Duffy’s poetry has always been popular. She is able to explore complex subjects (and is there anything more complex than love?) without being overwrought. The music is in the words and like a painter who selects the right hue for their composition, Duffy uses the mot juste for the emotion or aspect of love she analyses. Whether concentrating on love’s ecstasy or love’s despair, the poet’s gaze is never less than unwavering.
Kahlil Gibran once wrote that “poetry is a sigh that dries the tears”. This collection will do that, especially those poems that deal with the grief, the rancour and heartache when love falls. Yet this is poetry that enchants, making the heart soar; poems that the ardent lover and/or any keen student of love will want to absorb, words radiating a depth of feeling and a poet’s delight in language, on full display, shining like sparkling jewels. As the poet writes in “Finding the Words”, on the magic of the three most beautiful words in the lover’s armoury, “I rubbed at them until they gleamed in my palm.”
Rapture is a book that will certainly gleam in the consciousness of every reader who appreciates poetry that is written from the heart, is crafted with surgical precision, truthful yet tender, powerful yet beautiful. Whilst unflinching in examining the many facets of love – desire, faith, betrayal, separation, redemption – Duffy reminds us that love will live on, as sure as day follows night, “the blush of memory”, even when the heart is torn. Sometimes we just have to look elsewhere, including the natural world, before the light comes streaming in once more. Ultimately, even when mind and body have been stripped to the core, love is all, is all there is. Perhaps the greatest accolade that I can give to this book is that it is one that you will treasure, you will read over and over, possibly even give to a loved one. Words are timeless and in Rapture – that springs equally from the mind, heart and soul – Duffy has created a timeless classic, “upon the very naked name of love.”