Carol Ann Duffy and Standing Female Nude

How the collection was inspired by her life and shaped her life.




Carol Ann Duffy is born in Glasgow, Scotland.

First Publishings

Approx. 1970 - 1971

When Duffy was 15, many poems she had written were sent to 'Outposts' were some of the submitted poems would be published.

Relationship with Adrian Henri

Approx. 1971 - Approx. 1982

When Duffy was 16 she met Adrian Henri and lived with him for many years as she gained confidence from their relationship.

Education at University of Liverpool

Approx. 1974 - Approx. 1977

Duffy began her education at the University of Liverpool by studying philosophy and eventually obtained an honors degree in 1977.

Standing Female Nude Published


The publication of 'Standing Female Nude' is a collection of poems that comments on the flaws of human nature and how some may be averted by positive societal advancements such individual learning and respecting individual decisions.

War Photographer - Through the poem Duffy takes the stance of a photographer looking back upon the war that was captured through camera. This photographer has seen war, blood and death first hand and reveals the horror that affects the speaker for life as Duffy states 'he remembers the cries of this man's wife' (lines 15-16). The speaker also has a very different view than the public and Duffy makes a point of this with the statement 'A hundred agonies in black-and-white from which his editor will pick out five or six for Sunday's supplement' (lines 19-21). Even though the war is being captured through photography, society has a limited and flawed view as rather than being within the scene of war, they only get a view of a hand picked 5 or 6 photos.
Relation to Collection: Though society advances and in this case gets exposed to war through photography, there are still many flaws within the way most people obtain this knowledge. This is fixed in Duffy's poem by presenting the view of the photographer who was at the scene and saw the horrors and tragedies of war first hand.

Standing Female Nude - Within this poem, Duffy drafts a commentary on class difference within society and the difference it makes within people. In the poem the speaker is a woman who is assumed to be rather poor, though the art that she provides is looked upon by the upper class is seen as luxurious. This is embodied by sentence 'I can see the Queen of England gazing on my shape. Magnificent, she murmurs, moving on. It makes me laugh' (lines 12-14). These lines represent the clear difference between a 'river-whore' and royalty as something as simple as a painting of someone from a different societal class is looked upon as a magnificent piece that intrigues the upper class.
Relation to Collection: The main flaw pointed out within this poem is the difference in how people act and treated based on class within society. Duffy implies that this problem could be fixed with education on different classes by even simple conversation, however this is ignored by the bourgeoisie as the speaker states 'he possesses me on a canvas' (line 17). This conveys the message that this woman is seen as not a person but rather something to observe. With this mindset the flaws Duffy attempts to address will remain unchanged.

Head of English - In the poem 'Head of English', Duffy creates a lesson on education and the bias within. This poem is spoken from the point of view of a teacher introducing a poet to her class. The bias that is projected upon the students is shocking and even disrespectful to the poet who is brought in to expose the students to different forms of literature. The teacher's bias is extremely prevalent when she states, 'for not all poems, sadly, rhyme these days' (lines 8-9). Tone within the classroom also is condescending towards the guest poet as the teacher states 'convince us there's something we don't know' (line 24). Atmosphere within the classroom is the focus within this poem and within this piece it is very negative and harmful to the girls within the class.
Relation to Collection: There is a clear emphasis of flaws within education within this poem and it places a great amount of blame on teachers. While closed mindedness may be a part of human nature, Duffy emphasizes the damage it has on education and while some things need to be taught in a textbook fashion, others need to allow students and people in general to form their own opinions and embrace the creativity that makes humans special.

Education for Leisure - There is another emphasis on the flaws of the education system within this poem. This poem is read from the perspective of a student who does not fit the mold of a typical student. Duffy makes it clear that simply because the speaker does not fit into the average mentality of a child, he is ignored by the education system and his potential is never realized. This is extremely apparent when the speaker states, 'I am a genius. I could be anything at all, with half the chance' (lines 9-10). The potential is realized by the student but after apparent years of being ignored, he eventually resorts to harming himself rather than applying the same effort to a passion that could expose the speaker's 'genius'.
Relation to Collection: Once again analyzing the flaws of the education system, Duffy uses this troubled student as the speaker in order to emphasize the importance of including everyone of all different types of mindsets and interests into the education system in order to help everyone reach their potential.

The Dolphins - Within this poem Duffy makes dolphins at a resort similar to SeaWorld a metaphor for society. The dolphins within the poem experience a stagnant feeling an eventually sink into depression as many people do within society. The day by day routine is the same for these dolphins just as it is for a majority of students and members of the work force within society. A large point of emphasis states, 'We are in our element but we are not free' (line 2). This applies directly to humanity in the sense that society provides the illusion of freedom although if everyone did what was truly felt, society would look down upon, ridicule and question decisions that everyone makes every day. This is made a point once again as the dolphins experience a thought, 'There is no hope' (line 22). Hence society is stuck in an infinite loop that only provides an illusion of freedom.
Relation to Collection: As Duffy makes the comparison between dolphins held within captivity to everyday people trapped within a demoralizing routine it is clear that points about individual freedom are being made. The acceptance of different types of people, learning styles and interests are the major focus of this poem as Duffy expresses her thoughts about humans losing hope and becoming increasingly trapped within routines that damage personal freedom.

Shooting Stars - As in any piece written about the holocaust, 'Shooting Stars' is a poem about the damaging affects of divisive rhetoric and lack of tolerance. Duffy depicts the worst sides of humanity and how the movement took those involved back from their human states into savage states. This is seen in the very first lines, 'After I no longer speak they break our fingers to salvage my wedding ring' (lines 1-2). This is once again presented as a soldier is described as to have 'laughed' at a lifeless child.
Relation to Collection: Through this poem Duffy is attempting to warn society about the dangers of being intolerant not accepting of lifestyles. These savages are made examples of by Duffy as she describes them only as soldiers to imply that the compassion for other humans within the holocaust has been lost and the soldiers are merely there to complete a task. This point is finally driven home in the final stanza as a holocaust victim states, 'Sister, if seas part us, do you not consider me' (line 21). Duffy emphasizes the importance of acceptance with this line as it implies that in the end, humans are humans. Humanity should be one and look for unity rather than divisiveness.

Poetry Critic at 'The Guardian'

1988 - 1989

Duffy was employed at 'The Guardian' as a critic and was also the editor of the 'Ambit' magazine.

Elected 'Fellow of Royal Society of Literature'


In the same year that Duffy was nearly elected Poet Laureate, she was elected 'Fellow of Royal Society of Literature'.

Elected Poet Laureate


After the 10 year term from 1999 was up, Duffy was elected Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom in 2009.

Casey Cologna's Duffy Project


Through Duffy's life, she has gained experience in education and within the work force. These experiences impacted her writing of the collection 'Standing Female Nude' as she notes various flaws within humanity and provides insight on how to fix them. These solutions are to be more accepting of individual people and may have even inspired Duffy herself to take roles such as Poet Laureate and make an impact on people as she proves that even though she may not be considered 'typical' that does not hold her back in any fashion and in fact may even provide an advantage as Duffy is able to view events and the world through a different lens than most others.