This poem is the third-prize winner in the Carol Ann Duffy challenge on Young Poets Network (YPN). The challenge was co-written and judged by Duffy expert Dr Mari Hughes-Edwards, who said of this poem, "People don't often see how much Duffy sympathises with and loves men. Her work is - rightly enough I suppose - focused on women and LGBTQAI+ issues in the public consciousness, but in fact she writes about, for and in relation to a whole host of creative (often straight, white) men - think for instance of her evident affection for Ted Hughes, Will Shakespeare, Robert Browning, Wordsworth etc. and her close and creative relationship with gentle creatives like Stephen Raw, John Sampson, just to name but a few. This poem respects her connection with such men, their lives and their work in its naming of masculine fragilities. The 'piss-slick' tiles' refuse to shy away - as Duffy refuses to do - from the sordidity of abuse - yet a hierarchy of power is involved here and fragility and damage (the fact that not all men are created equally) is also implied. Some men, not all men, are violent - and some are violated - this is the voicing of the experience of the latter. This poem also recalls 'The Bees' and 'Rapture' in its reflection upon our interconnectedness: when one is damaged all are. The line 'a man wouldn't hope / for more than he's given' and the focus on 'dead weight' is recollective of her Anvil work."

A private man, public spaces

by Jack Cooper

Contains strong language

A man will drown if held under
by his own dead weight

or a stranger’s hand, pushing him
to the piss-slick tiles.

There’s no safety in a closed door,
but a man wouldn’t hope

for more than he’s given – a body
desperate for the air

in another’s lungs – take his mouth,
this ragged breath.

A man will drown if held under.

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