Quick Draw Poem Essays

Poetry Essay - Exemplar Poetry Essay

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Exemplar Poetry Essay

Here is an exemplar poetry essay, at GCSE standard, which compares two poems and almost attained almost full marks. The poetry essay was written by a student (aged 16) in exam conditions, taking approximately 40-45 minutes to complete. 

Compare how poets use language to present feelings in ‘The Manhunt’ (page 50) and one other poem from Relationships.

In both ‘The Manhunt’ by Simon Armitage, and ‘Quickdraw’, by Carol Ann Duffy, the poets use similar language techniques to express the characters’ feelings.  The main theme in these poems is the breakdown of a couple’s relationship and the stresses and emotions this breakdown puts the people under.  In ‘The Manhunt’, Armitage clearly expresses that the couple’s relationship has been damaged by the husband’s (Eddie’s) personal experiences whilst at war.  These experiences have had a severe effect on the man’s personality and his physical health.  This, in turn, has had an effect on the relationship.  Unlike ‘The Manhunt’, in ‘Quickdraw’ the couple are not in danger of ruining their relationship because of something that has happened to one of them – it is damaged because of the hurtful things they have been saying to each other.  Duffy clearly states that one of the reasons for this is due to the use of their mobile phones.
The structure in ‘The Manhunt’ is used for a particular outcome.  The continuous use of short two line stanzas not only reflects the fragility and weaknesses of the relationship, it also shows the wife’s actions to try and comfort her husband.  The broken up look of the poem implies that the couple’s relationship has been ripped to pieces and the couple are trying to piece it back together.  Also, in each stanza, the first line is normally something that the wife is trying to do to heal her husband in some way: “mind and attend”, and the second line is normally describing the extent of the husband’s wounds: “the fractured rudder of shoulder-blade”.
The structure in ‘Quickdraw’ progressively builds suspense, with the story reaching the climax at the end.  The poem starts quite slow-paced where it is setting the scene with Western imagery, and then the poem explodes into life, like a gun battle with the “sheriff” looking on.  The form of the first three stanzas resembles the shape of a gun, which reflects the danger and violence in the poem.
Armitage uses many different vivid images in his poem to express the feelings the husband is experiencing.  He also talks about the amount of physical torture he has endured.  The narrator says, “feel the hurt of his grazed heart”.  This could be interpreted that Eddie has been hurt severely and emotionally by his experiences and consequently it has affected his relationship with his wife.  The use of the word “heart” signifies not only the lifeline and the pivotal engine system of his body, but the vast love he had and still has for his wife.  The wife is feeling the pain with her husband (“feel the hurt”) so the reader can empathise and understand the roller-coaster of emotions the couple are going through.  On a deeper level, a “graze[d]” is normally something that can be nurtured and heal over time, but if not dealt with correctly, it could end up as a scar, which reflects how close their relationship is to breaking point.
Similarly, in ‘Quickdraw’, Duffy uses vivid imagery to express how close the couple’s relationship is to the end: “read the silver bullets of your kiss”.  This shows that although there is a positive side to this quote, “kiss”, the words that are being said are extremely hurtful to the reader.  The word “bullets” implies that the struggle is slowly killing the speaker and she can’t deal with it.  The fact that the bullets are “silver” means that they are strong enough to destroy anything, even the strongest of relationships, because silver bullets are renowned for being able to kill any type of beast.  Silver also implies that there is still hope for the relationship, because silver is precious, and because of the expression, “every cloud has a silver lining”.
In ‘The Manhunt’, Armitage uses an interesting metaphor to describe the feelings of Eddie.  He says, “the foetus of metal beneath his chest”.  This could mean that the pressure of the couple’s tribulations is growing inside of him, much like a “foetus”.  A “foetus” is also a symbol for life and joy, but unusually this is the exact opposite of what it is in Eddie.  The word “metal” reflects the pain and suffering Eddie has gone through at war and in a harsh, gruesome image that makes the reader feel quite taken back, because the “foetus of metal” is near his heart.  It is will soon reach his heart as it grows, which reflects how his pain is passing onto his relationship.
In ‘Quickdraw’, Duffy shows that the two people almost want to hurt each other, rather than help each other.  She says, “the trigger of my tongue, wide of the mark”.  The use of the word “trigger” suggests that the couple are deliberately trying to hurt each other’s feelings by hurling insults towards other’s hearts - the only way they know how to.  The phrase “wide of the mark” suggests that the remarks don’t always hit home, which means there is some promise for the couple.
In conclusion, Duffy and Armitage both use similar themes in their poems.  The breakdown of a couple’s relationship is a key feature in both and provides the background and storyline of them.  Both are raising wider issues of how couples deal with obstacles in their relationships.  Moreover, both are about the hope that is still there for them, but sadly both end with a negative tone, emphasising that the struggle will carry on.

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?



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.

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