A reading of a modern sonnet
‘Prayer’ is one of Carol Ann Duffy’s most popular and widely-studied poems, and packs an impressive emotional punch in just fourteen lines. But how does Duffy create such a powerful poem out of some very ordinary things – practising piano scales, or the BBC Shipping Forecast? We’re going to offer some notes towards an analysis of ‘Prayer’, which can be read here.
In summary, ‘Prayer’ locates the mystical or numinous experiences and feelings to be found in our everyday lives, especially at times when we feel despair or emptiness: the musical sound of the wind through the trees, someone practising musical scales on a piano, or the name of a lost child. A man hearing the sound of a train chugging across the landscape is suddenly reminded, unexpectedly, of his childhood, and his Latin lessons (the repetition of Latin vocabulary lessons, such as learning how to conjugate the verb, often has its own rhythm: e.g. in the famous example of ‘love’, amo, amas, amat).