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Quick Draw Poem Essay Format

Carol Ann Duffy is a famous Scottish poet who was born in Glasgow but raised in England. She developed a love of poetry from a very young age. She likes to write poems about contemporary issues using a strong narrative and normally in first person, effectively putting the reader as the person the narrator is addressing. Her work is widely studied in higher and further education. Quickdraw is from the poetry collection entitled Rapture and is about the good and bad parts of a relationship, likening it to gunslingers like the ones portrayed in old spaghetti western movies.

 

Form and Tone

Quickdraw is written in free verse with no rhyming pattern (although rhyme is used a couple of times in the poem) It is playful and humorous in tone, drawing comparisons between a gunslinger in the wild west and two, perhaps three people in a relationship. It is divided into four stanzas each one is four lines long. Duffy uses a mixture of short and longer sentences (often forming enjambment lines) to symbolise the ups and downs of a modern relationship. The gender of the narrator is left ambiguous. I read the poem in the voice of a woman, but perhaps that is because I know that Duffy herself is female.

 

Quickdraw Analysis

First stanza

From the start of the poem, which can be read in full here, Duffy sets the scene beautifully. She begins by comparing phones to the guns that a gunslinger might have worn around their waist in “wild west” this is metaphor that continues throughout the poem. The end of the second line is a short enjambment sentence where the word alone is left widowed on the following line, making the word appear to be alone! This is a technique Duffy has employed in a couple of her poems including Stealing. She likens receiving a phone call to a gun being drawn. The choice of the verb groan is interesting as it can have slight sexual connotations, although Freud may have something to say about my interpretation of that!

Second stanza

The opening line refers to how the narrator’s words have wounded them emotionally rather than referring to a physical wound. This is a powerful statement, not least of all because an admission of being wounded by somebodies words  suggests a vulnerability. You can’t be affected strongly by somebodies words unless you care about them. Maybe this line suggests a level intimacy or maybe it is the narrator trying to make their significant other feel guilty? Perhaps this is their way of “firing back?” You can almost imagine the words in this poem being read by a gunslinger and that is testament to Duffy’s skill as a poet. The line “I twirl the phone, then squeeze the trigger of my tongue” is basically talking about the verbal sparring that occasionally is emblematic of a relationship. However clearly the narrator feels they are losing this verbal joust as their comments is deemed by themselves to be “wide of the mark” and then their partner “blasts them” it would seem that in their “jockeying for position” the narrator is currently being outwitted by their partner.

 

Third stanza

It is interesting how Duffy uses a sentence that runs on into the next stanza. I think this gives the impression of a stuttering, wounded cowboy gasping to get his/her last words out. The narrator then proceeds to describe their relationship, using a tricolon of western-themed words/phrases to push the metaphor emphatically. The metaphor expands to say that the narrator shows the phone (gun) to the sheriff. Who is the sheriff? Their identity is left ambiguous. Perhaps they are a neutral friend? Acting like a go-between for the couple. Or maybe something else?

 

Fourth stanza

Again in this stanza a sentence runs on from the previous stanza. Interestingly the word left on its own here is concealed. One would assume this is to emphasize this word. What is it that is being concealed, could this have a double meaning? I think it suggests secrecy. Why would the narrator have so many phones? Why would their lover have access to their “concealed phone”? Unless the lover in question is not their only partner? Perhaps the aforementioned sheriff isn’t a friend after all, rather their long-term partner? This would explain why the relationship between the narrator and their subject is so “fiery” The use of the word fumble is telling here I believe, throughout there are words with sexual undertones “fumble”, “down on my knees” whether or not the couple that are the subject of this poem are still together or not is unclear, however I think what is clear is that the narrator very much sexualizes their partner – the subject of the poem. Duffy uses the oxymoron “silver bullets of your kiss” the kiss can be considered a good thing but in this instance it’s made to seem like a weapon. The final line could have very different interpretations, it is not uncommon for Duffy to end her poems in such a way. Having just referred to their lover’s kiss it’s easy to assume that the narrator saying “take this” is their way of saying take my kiss. Another interpretation is of somebody shooting their rival multiple times. Perhaps this is the narrator taking revenge for losing in the previous war of words. Perhaps this line is them dealing the killer blows?

 

Summary

Duffy leaves a lot of ambiguity in this poem. The gender of the narrator and their love interest, whether they are still together or not – the mention of the last chance saloon suggests that they are but it is never stated explicitly. The metaphor of the Wild West for a relationship is a good fit and creates an amusing poem that is pleasant to read and fun to analyse. Duffy has put a sexual undertone to the poem that reverberates throughout and suggests heightened levels of passion between the couple which would explain why their relationship can be so torrid at times. Why this passion exists is unclear and could be because the relationship is in fact an adulterous one. The idea of a secrecy is hinted at in certain points during the poem by the multiple phones. Phones and by extension, words, are used as metaphorical weapons throughout this poem. I think the entire poem mirrors a back and forth argument where a couple frequently hurts one another and the last stanza, being so ambiguous, represents how an argument can result in the end of a relationship or a passionate interlude.

Quickdraw

I wear the two, the mobile and the landline phones,

like guns, slung from the pockets on my hips. I’m all

alone. You ring, quickdraw, your voice a pellet

in my ear, and hear me groan.

You’ve wounded me.

Next time, you speak after the tone. I twirl the phone,

then squeeze the trigger of my tongue, wide of the mark.

You choose your spot, then blast me

through the heart.

And this is love, high noon, calamity, hard liqour

in the old Last Chance saloon. I show the mobile

to the sheriff; in my boot, another one’s

concealed. You text them both at once. I reel.

Down on my knees, I fumble for the phone,

read the silver bullets of your kiss. Take this …

and this … and this … and this … and this …

Overview.

Carol Ann Duffy’s poem Quickdrawplayfully explores the ambivalent role of the  telephone during an argument during a  love affair.  We may believe that  communication is a good thing in a relationship,  but this poem ironically reveals that too much accessibility gives lovers the opportunity for behaviors both destructive and hurtful.

Being ‘ in touch’ is significantly a most anti-tender experience in this playfully affecting poem. Words have become transformed into metaphorical pellets or bullets, so that dialogue becomes fraught with verbal missiles intent on emotional damage.

Interestingly Duffy plays with the  Western Cowboy convention of the gunfight at high noon. Typically in Westerns like High Noon, The Magnificent Seven  and the later Tombstone, cowboys fought each other at set times in the main street; for money, honor and territory.

The fastest  meanest,  most degenerate  gunslingers would face the solitary Sheriff or ‘Shane’ -like heroic figure, who would courageously remain alone in town to defend the weak and virtuous against all the odds.

Duffy ‘borrows’ such a scenario for her poem in order to entertain the reader and to provoke them into new ways of considering their own experiences. The playful combination of mobile phone and gunslinger ‘teases’ the reader into thought!

Carol Ann Duffy also enjoys recreating such a scenario as she enjoys creating new personas in her poetry. It’s a form of literary cross dressing or ventriloquism. Here in Quickdraw, we detect a certain urgency and tension as the inevitable duel between one ‘cowboy/girl/ lover’ fight l it out via the telephone!

Think About.

Carol Ann Duffy’s poem appropriates very familiar objects from today’s daily world and makes us think about their impact upon our hearts and minds. Is the art of communication really enhanced by so many ways of ‘getting in touch’ or are these ‘ways’ in fact far from intimate? Are we less in touch than we realise as everything is so rushed, reactive and sometimes ill considered?

Ironically perhaps, do they distance us in fact from kindness and reflection, so that hurtful behavior may be  too easily experienced as we react immediately and have no time to reconsider the effect of our reactions?

Stanza One.

I wear the two, the mobile and the landline phones,

like guns, slung from the pockets on my hips. I’m all

alone. You ring, quickdraw, your voice a pellet

in my ear, and hear me groan.

Love can make us defensive. We ‘wear’ ‘phones as if they are weapons; weapons for us to use aggressively,  as well as to be utilized against us. This is the irony of ‘phones. We are both receivers as well as deliverers.

How many times have we all encountered hostility over the ‘phone? And perhaps mobiles with their shortened messages by text make hostility easier or understanding so much harder?

The poet is here in a state of expectation as well as preparation. ‘Phones are ‘like guns, slung from my hips.’ Love and its fall out make us ever ready for combat, for the repercussions of challenged intimacy.

Why does the poet declare that she is ‘all alone.’ Is this her normal state? Or is it a loaded admission? An admission loaded with irony? I am alone  so we could be enjoying our relationship, yet here we are fighting? Is there someone else involved too? Perhaps the ‘sheriff’ mentioned later in the poem?

Has  her lover has left her?  Or has  her public partner   gone away, so that her private lover and her can battle it out across all the phone systems? Tension in the poem seems complex and entangled.

Then the  inevitable  expected call comes and takes the speaker by surprise: ‘You ring, quickdraw, your voice a pellet/in my ear, and hear me groan.’ The lover attacks first. They are the faster gunslinger; is ‘right’ on their side or are they more prepared, more used to verbal combat?

The words damage the poet, so she groans, wounded by her lover, less equipped to deal with her lover’s quickdraw than her two guns suggest.

Does the lover enjoy inflicting this verbal wound upon the poet? Is this exchange about point scoring with metaphorical  ‘bullets/pellets’.?

Stanza Two.

You’ve wounded me.

Next time, you speak after the tone. I twirl the phone,

then squeeze the trigger of my tongue, wide of the mark.

You choose your spot, then blast me

This is a powerful declaration. ‘You’ve wounded me.’ Love involves hurt. Love is HURT perhaps?

Communication can kill.  Just like the Quickdraw of the title. And presumably this is the danger of intimacy  We know enough about our beloved to damage them , especially when love renders us vulnerable and more susceptible to hurt. We lash out with the intent to wound.

How brave is it to admit that someone has caused you pain? Or is such an admission egocentric or ‘weak’? Or designed to make the other feel guilty?

The reactive quality of this Quickdraw continues in the second line. ‘Next time, you speak after the tone.‘This is a battle conducted by telephone!

Once again, being in communication or being ‘available’ is dangerous as we literally can be found and then attacked. Once again think of the poetic conceit Duffy is deploying. Survival needs a fast gun and  adequate protection. A Quickdraw!

As the poet/narrator retaliates, the ‘verbal trigger of my tongue’  attack goes ‘wide of the mark’. Perhaps the poet is less adept at this conflict within a relationship than the lover. For the lover is an expert assailant’you choose your spot, then blast me..‘ Notice this line is not end- stopped as we might expect with such an attack. In fact it goes over the line into the next stanza via the use of enjambment. The attack is sustained and destructive  as it goes ‘through the heart.‘ Words have the power to deeply wound like real bullets. Wounds carry on, the spill over into different parts of one’s life.

Perhaps bullets are in some ways cleaner and more honest?

Stanza Three

through the heart.

And this is love, high noon, calamity, hard liqour

in the old Last Chance saloon. I show the mobile

to the sheriff; in my boot, another one’s

The noun ‘heart’ is then end-stopped as we linger with the impact of this ‘fatal’ hit. Those whom we love, often know enough about us to hurt us deeply, deeply enough to ‘kill’.

The irony and pathos of the next line emanates from the list of iconic associations with the Wild West gunfight: ‘And thisis love, high noon, calamity, hard liquor…’ This list is contextualized in the ‘old Last Chance saloon‘. Surely this place is a metaphor for the love affair itself? Love it seems brings disorder, chaotic behaviour and the hurtfulness of fights.

The poignant or cynical resume of the love affair is cut short by the appearance of a mysterious ‘sheriff’ whose identity we remain unsure of. Does the poet have a partner who asks to see what all the texting ‘phone furore might be? Couldi t be that the lover is  female too? 

At any rate, surely the number of ‘phones that the poet owns connotes secrecy? Why would you own several ‘phones unless you are leading a double life?  The fact that like a real gunslinger  one ‘phone remains hidden in the boot, yet is known to the lover, leads the reader to believe this is a secret relationship and perhaps that is why it is so riddled with intensity?

Once again Duffy deploys enjambment at the end of this stanza to give an ongoing, unfinished aspect to the events of the poem.  In fact the word ‘concealed‘ is then sealed as you can see just below, by the emphatic use of a full stop. This adds irony to the device and once again stresses the secrecy of the relationship.

Stanza Four. 

concealed. You text them both at once. I reel.

Down on my knees, I fumble for the phone,

read the silver bullets of your kiss. Take this …

and this … and this … and this … and this …

 The lover is not to be deceived. They know the strategies and ways of the poet. ‘You text them both at once.’ This is all out assault; passionate verbal victory too? For what is said, makes the poet ‘reel’. Is is a revelation, a message that cannot be ignored or denied? Or even we wonder an ultimatum with a declaration of love. For look how the poem ends with ‘the silver bullets of your kiss.’ Several famous gunslingers used ‘silver bullets‘ These are precious kisses or bullets of love as they seem to render the poet submissive and perhaps yielding to the victory of the other. 

Is the submission exciting erotically? Or is this about relief through the release or catharsis of the fight? making up extra passionate perhaps after the stormy exchanges that have lead up to this reconciliation?

Who knows. We are left to make up our own ending to this ‘gun fight.’ Will the lovers love again or is it all  over in a famous hail of bullets? Or is it perversely a storm of kisses, healing over the squabble yet again? 

 

 

I am a highly approachable Independent Expert Private English/English Literature Tutor located in Greater Manchester with over twenty years teaching and tutoring experience from Secondary to Postgraduate Degree level.