The Poetry Place


Duffy’s poem has been an inspiration to many young writers.  A Y8 boy wrote a chilling version where the valentine was an octopus and a Y6 girl wrote one I will always remember around giving a mirror.  Writing a version of their own seems to give students a real insight into the poem. (It’s, of course, something I recommend wherever possible with most poems but Valentine has something about it which makes it very suitable – perhaps it’s the blend of the surreal, the amusing and the emotional.)

Some points to ask students to discuss among themselves before reporting back:

  • What qualities does the onion have that, for example, an apple does not?
  • In what tone of voice should the lines ‘Here.’ and ‘Take it.’ be read?  
  • Is there an undertone of threat amongst the playfulness or is it completely light-hearted?
  • ‘I am trying to be truthful’ sits in the middle of the poem like an interruption.  What function does it serve?
  • ‘Lethal’ sits in the middle of the last stanza in a similar way, stopping the reader. What is lethal -  a ring, an onion, a knife, marriage, love?
  • How might the person receiving the onion react? 

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