“Stealing” was written by the Scottish poet Carol Ann Duffy, who was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 2009 to 2019. The poem's speaker is a bored, isolated person who feels "sick of the world" and routinely steals things just for the thrill of it. The speaker says that the strangest thing they ever stole was a snowman, which they later kicked apart, and ends the poem by frustratedly declaring that whoever is listening to this story doesn't understand the speaker at all. “Stealing” was first published in Duffy’s 1987 collection titled Selling Manhattan.
The most unusual ...
... the winter moon.
I wanted him, ...
... with the head.
Better off dead ...
... what you want.
He weighed a ...
... morning. Life's tough.
Sometimes I steal ...
... pinch a camera.
I watch my ...
It took some ...
... him. Again. Again.
My breath ripped ...
... of the world.
Boredom. Mostly I'm ...
... flogged it,
but the snowman ...
... saying, do you?
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
Thatcherism and Crime in the UK — Read this article at The Guardian to learn more about Thatcherism in the UK, and how the policies of the Thatcher government led to a rise in crime around the country.
Essay on “Stealing” and Margaret Thatcher’s UK — Read more about how “Stealing” explores the alienation, anger, and loss of meaning experienced under Thatcherism in this essay that examines the poem alongside Patrick Keiller’s 1994 film, London. (The poem is examined in the second half of the essay.)
Carol Ann Duffy's Biography — Read more about Carol Ann Duffy’s life and work on this biographical page from the Poetry Foundation.
Animated Video of “Stealing” — Watch an animated version of “Stealing,” and listen to the poem read aloud, in this student-made video.
Selling Manhattan — Read more about Selling Manhattan, the 1987 collection in which Carol Ann Duffy first published “stealing,” at the website of the book’s publisher, Pan Macmillan.
1The most unusual thing I ever stole? A snowman.
2Midnight. He looked magnificent; a tall, white mute
3beneath the winter moon. I wanted him, a mate
4with a mind as cold as the slice of ice
5within my own brain. I started with the head.
6Better off dead than giving in, not taking
7what you want. He weighed a ton; his torso,
8frozen stiff, hugged to my chest, a fierce chill
9piercing my gut. Part of the thrill was knowing
10that children would cry in the morning. Life's tough.
11Sometimes I steal things I don't need. I joy-ride cars
12to nowhere, break into houses just to have a look.
13I'm a mucky ghost, leave a mess, maybe pinch a camera.
14I watch my gloved hand twisting the doorknob.
15A stranger's bedroom. Mirrors. I sigh like this — Aah.
16It took some time. Reassembled in the yard,
17he didn't look the same. I took a run
18and booted him. Again. Again. My breath ripped out
19in rags. It seems daft now. Then I was standing
20alone among lumps of snow, sick of the world.
21Boredom. Mostly I'm so bored I could eat myself.
22One time, I stole a guitar and thought I might
23learn to play. I nicked a bust of Shakespeare once,
24flogged it, but the snowman was the strangest.
25You don't understand a word I'm saying, do you?