A Poem by Gillian Clarke

As we reach the final week of Wales Readathon 2020, we look at a poem by an award-winning Welsh writer

GCBorn in Cardiff in 1937, the Welsh poet and playwright, Gillian Clarke has published several poetry collections in addition to editing the Anglo-Welsh Review from 1975 to 1984 and co-founding Ty Newydd – the Writer’s Centre in North Wales. Her poetry is studied by GCSE and A level students across the UK and she has given readings and lectures throughout Europe and the United States.

She was the National Poet of Wales from 2008 to 2016 and was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2010 – only the second Welsh person ever to receive the honour. She lives with her family on a smallholding in Ceredigion where they keep a small flock of sheep and farm the land according to organic and conservation practice.

You can read her notes about Lament on her website. 

Lament by Gillian Clarke

For the green turtle with her pulsing burden,
in search of the breeding ground.
For her eggs laid in their nest of sickness.

For the cormorant in his funeral silk,
the veil of iridescence on the sand,
the shadow on the sea.

For the ocean’s lap with its mortal stain.
For Ahmed at the closed border.
For the soldier with his uniform of fire.

For the gunsmith and the armourer,
the boy fusilier who joined for the company,
the farmer’s sons, in it for the music.

For the hook-beaked turtles,
the dugong and the dolphin,
the whale struck dumb by the missile’s thunder.

For the tern, the gull and the restless wader,
the long migrations and the slow dying,
the veiled sun and the stink of anger.

For the burnt earth and the sun put out,
the scalded ocean and the blazing well.
For vengeance, and the ashes of language.


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Categories: Reading Wales

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23 replies

  1. Really powerful! I thought it was going one way and then it completely wrong-footed me.

  2. That’s a beautiful and powerful work – thank you for sharing it!

  3. One of the joys of last year’s Dewithon was my discovery of Gillian Clarke’s writing. Her prose is as beautiful and powerful as her poetry. Thanks for posting this, Paula 🙂

  4. Good grief. Strong stuff from Gillian. As always getting to the bones.

  5. I’ve loved the examples of her work I’ve read before but I didn’t know this one. Her explanatory notes about the origins of some of the lines was really interesting

  6. That’s gorgeous Paula, thanks for sharing!

  7. Thank you for sharing this. What a powerful read.

  8. Thanks for introducing so many of us to this writer. And what a long time she spent in that position of National Poet. Wonderful!


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