Mrs Midas

Notes from class…

  1. Duffy was inspired to write the poem by her friend, a war photographer. She felt the role of a recorder of atrocity was morally interesting.
  1. Each stanza ends with a rhyming couplet to give a sense of order – something which the photographer’s mind struggles to achieve.
  1. The photographer is compared to a priest as his work is considered extremely important – almost holy. In addition, the process of developing photographs is almost a ritual.
  1. “Solutions slop” – this has a dual meaning. On the one hand the “solution” is the chemical used to process photographs; on the other, it could be referring to moral solutions – answers to difficult questions.
  1. The photographer’s hands shake in the dark room, a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder. He has been mentally affected by what he has seen and experienced. This contrasts with the calm he feels when taking the photographs.
  1. “Running children in a nightmare heat” is a reference to the famous “Napalm Girl” photograph.
  1. “Half-formed ghost” refers to a) the photograph of a man not being fully developed yet, and b) the subject of the photo (the man) being almost a ghost – he is dying.
  1. “five or six” shows that despite all of the evidence of suffering (“a hundred agonies”), he will only use a few.
  1. Themes include: the atrocities of war; the morality of war journalism; the limits of human compassion.
  1. “They do not care” shows that despite his efforts to inform people about the horror of war, most people are too concerned with their own lives to feel as strongly as he does.