Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer

Gillian Clarke

  • Reading Winter into Spring

    It’s fair to say that life has been more than usually erratic lately. We have had a lot of disruption, what with issues in the house (and in our daughter’s new flat), health problems for just about everyone, tech problems and the distractions – lovely though they were – of Celtic Connections and StAnza. Nevertheless, writing has begun to happen, with the new ppoetry collection transforming itself while I wasn’t looking into something I’m not sure I recognise yet.

    As a result of this, reading has been much more random and diverse than usual, but I still have some really good books to recommend and to think about

    • Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature. I don’t agree with all he says, but he has the knack of making you think, see things differently, and reflect on questions of art and nature.
    • Gaston Bachelard’s The Psychoanalysis of Fire. To be honest it was pretty weird and unreadable, but his central tenet, that the myths we create about things like fire are as influential and important as the facts we can establish, is one I like. A lot of The Well of the Moon is about this very thing, and it will probably have an impact on the next collection too.
    • Rebecca Hurst’s debut poetry collection The Iron Bridge. I’d put this with the work of Séan Hewitt, Helen Boden and Eleanor Rees for its concern with place, walking, myth and memory, a very careful reflective book.
    • I’m currently comparing two books dealing with lockdown – Gillian Clarke’s The Silence and Tom Kelly’s Walking My Streets. Both collections are heavy with grief and the loneliness of the deepest lockdown, but where Gillian Clarke looks out onto the countryside where she lives, watching the birds and the rain, the quiet and the undifferentiated days when the dead are reduced to daily numbers, Tom Kelly looks backwards into memory at his early life, his community and the lost members of his family. My lockdown was more characterised by fear and the desperate need to maintain communications with people who were in trouble, rather than grief, but these two collections have brought back some of the deadly quiet of those weeks. It’s important not to forget.

    People who sign up to my newsletters will, I hope, get more reviews, and I am planning to write some for The Glasgow Review of Books, so please look out for them.

  • Gillian Clarke: A Recipe for Water

    Life is too short to review books you don’t like, so you can take it as read that this is good poetry.
    It’s lucid and serene, attentive and intelligent. It deals with water as sea, snow glacier and river, and talks incisively about global warming without a lot of finger-pointing and shouting. Look at this quiet but pointed conclusion to Solstice where she makes the connection between a spendthrift extravagance of Christmas lights and global warming.

    and we’ll know, for the pleasures of here and now,
    we are borrowing bling from the glacier, slipping
    Greenland’s shoulder from its wrap of snow

    No preaching, but a lovely image for a chilling fact.

    Climate change is a hot topic, but Gillian Clarke extends her consideration of water into many other dimensions. Water, in her hands, is also language, tradition, geography, relationship, connection, transformation, currency. This is easy to read poetry, but not simple.

    There are poems about other things too, birds, plants, minerals, architecture, and one about rugby, which I never thought I would be able to read with pleasure. I bought this book for the intriguing title, but I’m loving it as much for the poems about Welsh, about fire, about horsetails.

    I was looking for something appropriate to finish this review off, but didn’t really find it until I read Jamie Whittle’s book White River, where he says “when you start studying a river, you begin to see that it is connected to everything else on the planet”.

    This is exactly the feeling I got from Gillian Clarke’s book.

  • a world of poetry

    One of these days I will have to review some of the new poetry that has fallen into my lap lately. I am a sucker for books with water in the title so I have Matthew Hollis’ Groundwater and Gillian Clarke’s A Recipe for Water, which have stunned and excited me.
    Then there was Alan Jamieson’s video poems – beautiful combinations of text and sound and image which I’d love to find a way to share.
    Then there will be the Atlantic Islands Festival on the island of Luing from 4th-11th July
    which has been organised by Norman Bissell at the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics. I don’t know how he has managed to pack so much interesting stuff into one week, but it is truly impressive, and I am looking forward very much to taking part.

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