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Categories: 21st Century, Bestsellers, Welsh, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (120 pages)
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Longlisted for the 2020 Laurel Prize for Ecopoetry
Zoology is Gillian Clarke’s ninth Carcanet collection, following her T. S. Eliot Prize-shortlisted Ice. The collection opens with a glimpse of hare, whose ‘heartbeat halts at the edge of the lawn’, holding us ‘in the planet of its stare’. Within this millisecond of mutual arrest, a well of memories draws us into the Welsh landscape of the poet’s childhood: her parents, the threat of war, the richness of nature as experienced by a child. In the second of the collection’s six parts we find ourselves in the Zoology Museum, whose specimens stare back from their cases: the Snowdon rainbow beetle, the marsh fritillary, the golden lion tamarin. ‘Will we be this beautiful when we pass into the silence, behind glass?’ In later sections the poet invites us to Hafod Y Llan, the Snowdonian nature reserve rich in Alpine flowers and abandoned mineshafts, ‘where darkness laps at the brink of a void deep as cathedrals’. Clarke captures a complete cycle of seasons on the land, its bounty and hardship, from the spring lamb ‘birthed like a fish / steaming in moonlight’ to the ewe bearing her baby ‘in the funeral boat of her body’. The poems tap into a powerful, feminist empathy that sees beyond differentiations of species to an understanding deeper than knowledge, something subterranean, running through the land. Zoology closes with a series of elegies to friends, poets and peers, and poems remembering victims of war and tyrannical regimes. ‘Like a bird picking over / the September lawn, / I gather their leaves. / This is what silence is.’ Then our hare, that ‘flight of sinew and gold’, is spotted one last time: ‘a silvering wind crossing a field, / two ears alert in a gap / then gone’.
Awards won by Gillian Clarke Long-listed, 2020 The Laurel Prize for Ecopoetry (Zoology) Winner, 2011 Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry.
Winner, 2012 Wilfred Owen Award
'This tug between the factual and the more mystical world beyond is at the heart of the collection. Science can describe the Land but not how love of particular places works within the human spirit...a richly varied and substantial collection'
D A Prince, the North
'Clarke has a direct line to the natural world. She paints the Welsh landscape without idealising or romanticising, and in the process shows that nature doesn't need to be elevated to inspire a quiet awe.'
Financial Times Best Books of 2017
'Always openings. Perceptions never alien to the new. No borders enclose her ideas. They are allowed to roam in her meticulous phrasing. And yet her greatest strength is, paradoxically, her moments of both closure and trapped moments of insight delivered to us grateful readers with faithful intelligence.'
'Clarke is a singer among poets, a celebrant of landscape, trees, insects, dead ewes, a writer whose rhythms and vocabulary seem tenaciously rooted in the traditions of the place of their origin.'
The Tablet Praise for Gillian Clarke 'Gillian Clarke's outer and inner landscapes are the sources from which her poetry draws its strengths.'
Carol Ann Duffy, Guardian
'Gillian Clarke's [poems] ring with lucidity and power... Clarke's work is both personal and archetypal, built out of language as concrete as it is musical.'
Anne Stevenson, Times Literary Supplement 'In Ice Gillian Clarke explores memory and identity through a series of winter landscapes.'
Adam Newey, The Guardian, 1st December 2012
'Clarke's mellifluous new collection [A Recipe for Water] is her first since her appointment as Wales's national poet in 2008. The drop of water on the tongue, she tells us, 'was the first word in the world', and it's through water that these poems give up their stories: history is written into the Arctic's ice; myths well up from river sources; the currents on the ocean wash culture and heritage onto our shores. Watery collections have poured forth from the pens of poets from Sean O'Brien to Maura Dooley in recent years; anticipation is high for Clarke's contribution to the pool'.
Sarah Crown, the Guardian, 3 January 2009
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