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This review is taken from PN Review 9, Volume 6 Number 1, September - October 1979.

INSIDE KNOWLEDGE Gillian Clarke, The Sundial (Gomer Press) £1.
Ruth Bidgood, The Print of Miracle (Gomer Press) £1.

The communion of "I" and "you", mother and child, living and dead, occurs in Gillian Clarke's poems in a culture interacting with nature, channelling the otherwise overwhelming forces of desire and generation. Hers is a world composed of simple elements-seeds and skulls, sun and darkness, earth and water, birds, beasts and flowers-but indeed composed: as an order sustaining, and sustained by, forms of essential labour and primary human relationships, and containing both the potentially destructive force of dynamic energies and the strain of false perception or false relations, which threaten to reduce it to chaotic opposition between man and nature. It is where the sun-the life-force outside and within him-threatens the mind of a sick child with a nightmare of lions, until he constructs a sundial and contains it by calculation and measurement, learning unconsciously how to tame the force; where, in Pisgah graveyard, the stone of the Welsh poet Dewi Emrys is "a sand-stone pod/Bursting with words",


And all around the living corn concedes
Fecundity to him. They're proud of him
Here, where full barns count as much as poetry.


If this instance suggests the idyllic rendering of a culture, it is her apprehension of the tension in this world, rather than its settled composure, that justifies Gillian Clarke when she places herself in the tradition of the Welsh poet, in which full barns and poetry are of equal value, because he lived wholly within the culture they ...


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