Please comment on the meaning of the poem "Head of English" by Carol Ann Duffy.

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One of the amazing aspects of Carol Ann Duffy's poetry is that she is able to create incredible dramatic monologues that give us a real idea of the kind of character whose voice she is presenting. In this poem, we can see that she assumes the persona of a jaded English teacher, who has invited a poet along to adddress the class. However, it is clear when we examine the poem, that the reason why the teacher is so sarcastic and cynical is that she or he has never been able to gain success as a poet him or herself. Note the following lines:

I've written quite a bit of poetry myself,
am doing Kipling with the Lower Fourth.

Understanding this suddenly helps us to realise the very cynical and sarcastic tone that pervades the poem, as the teacher ends by saying to the poet, "Convince us that there's something we don't know." We are left with the massive bitterness and disappointment of an English teacher who is obviously jealous of the success of this poet that he or she has never been able to find herself.


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