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Poetry Analysis: 'Miracle on St. David's Day' by Gillian Clarke

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Introduction

Poetry Analysis: 'Miracle on St. David's Day' Gillian Clarke, born in 1937 in Cardiff, is known for writing poems about nature - and this one is no exception. Also, if we consider Clarke's Welsh roots, it's also no surprise that 'Miracle on St. David's Day' features numerous references to the Welsh celebration. Furthermore, this poem is "Ars Poetica": it is about poetry. Specifically, it displays the awesome healing powers of poetry - the 'miracle' referenced to in the poem's title. Let's start off by investigating the basics of this poem; Clarke is narrating a recounted experience (reading poetry to those admitted to a mental health institution) directly to the reader. The poem takes on a tone of compassion, generated by the slow reading caused by several instances of caesura (pauses in a line, often caused by commas) such as "...hands on his knees, he rocks...". Furthermore, it is also calm and collected, caused by the slow reading but also by Clarke's use of lexis - long, 'soft' words, such as "...he rocks gently to their rhythms...". Trying to convey her feelings accordingly, the slow pace of the poem also makes it seem as though she was in shock to see people in such a state - such as the "absent" woman or the other woman, who offered her "as many buckets of coal" as she could ever need. ...read more.

Middle

With regards to the description of spring water, which is when water flows up to the earth's surface (from beneath), the images spawned are calm, natural and refreshing. However, the water, like the man, has had to overcome much difficulty: be it flowing through layers of tightly packed rocks, or in the man's case, overcoming his 'incurable' illness. Regarding the second part of the line, of the bird, it makes me imagine a bird primed to chirp at the new dawn of a new year. Like how the man has been waiting in "breaking darkness", his dumbness, for an opportunity to turn overcome his illness and start life anew, much in the same way as people 'turn a new leaf' at a new year and create resolutions that are often life changing (such as giving up smoking). Another use of imagery is the line "The nurses are frozen, alert;". Although the nurses are not literally frozen, they are simply so enthralled by the labouring man reciting, word perfect, Wordsworth's poem. Of course, they are edgy - this man hasn't spoken for forty years, but they are equally as shocked as the patients, who even "...seem to listen..."; even the woman who sat, "not listening" earlier. ...read more.

Conclusion

and the final stanza only features 3 lines (coincidentally the month number of March - with January being 1 and February being 2). The whole poem features little to no rhyme or pattern and as such is written in free verse - but this is understandable, since the poem is essentially a recount of Clarke's experience; unplanned and unpredictable (as was proven by the man's ability to recite a Wordsworth poem flawlessly, despite being seemingly dumbstruck). Due to this poem's free verse, each line is over varying length - however, when the poem is viewed on its side the stanzas appear to resemble leeks, which is a common sight on St. David's Day; it accompanies daffodils as one of the Welsh emblems as well as being Saint David's personal symbol and of great importance to Welsh people. In conclusion, I'd say that Gillian Clarke has written an exceptional piece of poetry - commenting on poetry itself, referring to nature, St. David's Day and mental illness while utilising many poetic techniques (such as caesura) to create tone and mood. I'd even go so far to say that she is subtly commenting on Psychiatric practices and that labelling people with a diagnosis isn't the best way to deal with the situation at hand - the labouring man was able to "cure" his incurable illness. This poem is well written, though provoking and powerful, though subtle. Word count:1345 Steven Burnett 11/10/2010 ...read more.

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