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F/H Catrin by Gillian Clarke. F/H Gillian Clarke Born in Cardiff, 1937 Speaks both English and Welsh Has three children, a girl and two boys Writes about.

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Presentation on theme: "F/H Catrin by Gillian Clarke. F/H Gillian Clarke Born in Cardiff, 1937 Speaks both English and Welsh Has three children, a girl and two boys Writes about."— Presentation transcript:

1 F/H Catrin by Gillian Clarke

2 F/H Gillian Clarke Born in Cardiff, 1937 Speaks both English and Welsh Has three children, a girl and two boys Writes about nature/uses natural imagery Usually writes in her own voice (i.e. doesn’t invent characters for monologues as seen in Song of the Old Mother) You can find more information at

3 F/H I can remember you, child, As I stood in a hot, white Room at the window watching The people and cars taking Turn at the traffic lights. I can remember you, our first Fierce confrontation, the tight Red rope of love which we both Fought over. It was square Environmental blank, disinfected Of paintings or toys. I wrote All over the walls with my Words, coloured the clean squares With the wild, tender circles Of our struggle to become Separate. We want, we shouted, To be two, to be ourselves. Neither won nor lost the struggle In the glass tank clouded with feelings Which changed us both. Still I am fighting You off, as you stand there With your straight, strong, long Brown hair and your rosy Defiant glare, bringing up From the heart's pool that old rope, Tightening about my life, Trailing love and conflict, As you ask may you skate In the dark, for one more hour. The poem deals with the often tense but loving relationship between mother and daughter It explores this idea through two separate confrontations: One is the birth; the other is as a teenager who wants to play out after dark Clarke says the poem was written in answer to the question, “Why did my beautiful baby have to become a teenager?” Although the overall meaning is clear the details of this poem make it more complex Two stanzas deal with their relationship at birth and in teenage years and the break makes the reader wonder what has happened in between the incidents First stanza is in the past tense; second is in the present. This could suggest the ever- present and continuing nature of their love Gentle rhythm of the poem stresses the spontaneous nature of the poet’s recollections

4 F/H I can remember you, child, As I stood in a hot, white Room at the window watching The people and cars taking Turn at the traffic lights. I can remember you, our first Fierce confrontation, the tight Red rope of love which we both Fought over. It was square Environmental blank, disinfected Of paintings or toys. I wrote All over the walls with my Words, coloured the clean squares With the wild, tender circles Of our struggle to become Separate. We want, we shouted, To be two, to be ourselves. The first section deals with the mother before and during labour After the title the child’s name is not mentioned again. Perhaps because of the universal theme of the poem or possibly because it is so personal that names are unnecessary Simple language used throughout emphasises the simple, yet intense, nature of the emotions being discussed Personal side of the poem is emphasised by the use of the second person Unnamed child possibly hinting at the universality of the theme ‘first…confrontation’ what does this suggest about the poet’s relationship with Catrin?

5 F/H I can remember you, child, As I stood in a hot, white Room at the window watching The people and cars taking Turn at the traffic lights. I can remember you, our first Fierce confrontation, the tight Red rope of love which we both Fought over. It was square Environmental blank, disinfected Of paintings or toys. I wrote All over the walls with my Words, coloured the clean squares With the wild, tender circles Of our struggle to become Separate. We want, we shouted, To be two, to be ourselves. The images of the hospital as sterile, ‘blank’ and devoid of feeling contrasts with the personal nature of the event. She remembers the experience as being very clinical. Perhaps she felt the hospital stole some of the personal joy of birth from her. The clinical images also contrast with the more natural and flowing images of Catrin used in the second stanza Again the poet contrasts the everyday lives of those she sees with the huge event she is waiting for. Could also suggest the progress through life/labour as the traffic lights change ‘Red rope’ Given the context what is the rope and why is it red? Red due to the blood but red is also the colour of passion and love. What images does this contrast with?

6 F/H I can remember you, child, As I stood in a hot, white Room at the window watching The people and cars taking Turn at the traffic lights. I can remember you, our first Fierce confrontation, the tight Red rope of love which we both Fought over. It was square Environmental blank, disinfected Of paintings or toys. I wrote All over the walls with my Words, coloured the clean squares With the wild, tender circles Of our struggle to become Separate. We want, we shouted, To be two, to be ourselves. Stresses the violent, painful nature of childbirth. Again Clarke uses contrasts to emphasise her point. What contrast is used in these lines? Did Clarke actually write all over the walls? What does this actually mean? Her screams of pain could be the words metaphorically filling the room Clearly this event was the inspiration for a poem. This one! Could this be the writing on the walls? The writing’s on the wall is a popular cliché meaning things are inevitable. Could this suggest the inevitability that babies eventually become troublesome teens?

7 F/H I can remember you, child, As I stood in a hot, white Room at the window watching The people and cars taking Turn at the traffic lights. I can remember you, our first Fierce confrontation, the tight Red rope of love which we both Fought over. It was square Environmental blank, disinfected Of paintings or toys. I wrote All over the walls with my Words, coloured the clean squares With the wild, tender circles Of our struggle to become Separate. We want, we shouted, To be two, to be ourselves. ‘tender circles’ could mean the contractions of child birth. Again Clarke contrasts her choice of language with the reality of the event ‘We’ at this point the mother and child have become separate. They have their own wills which foreshadows the conflict that comes later on. Are these shouts of pain or of celebration? The desire to be ‘separate…two… ourselves’ is the same struggle which takes place later in the poem. The teenager’s struggle to be individual

8 F/H I can remember you, child, As I stood in a hot, white Room at the window watching The people and cars taking Turn at the traffic lights. I can remember you, our first Fierce confrontation, the tight Red rope of love which we both Fought over. It was square Environmental blank, disinfected Of paintings or toys. I wrote All over the walls with my Words, coloured the clean squares With the wild, tender circles Of our struggle to become Separate. We want, we shouted, To be two, to be ourselves. Alliteration stresses the effort of childbirth. The heavy breathing involved Enjambment stresses the separation by physically splitting the words on the page. The caesura following ‘separate’ forces the reader to pause and consider the impending birth Enjambment also used here to physically enact the turning of the cars, making the image more vivid for the reader.

9 F/H Neither won nor lost the struggle In the glass tank clouded with feelings Which changed us both. Still I am fighting You off, as you stand there With your straight, strong, long Brown hair and your rosy Defiant glare, bringing up From the heart's pool that old rope, Tightening about my life, Trailing love and conflict, As you ask may you skate In the dark, for one more hour. They’re both winners but both have been altered by the struggle. Clarke is a mother now whilst Catrin, although separate is still dependent The hospital. What is the effect of the image of ‘clouded…feelings’? The struggle of child birth is the beginning of many struggles and battles throughout parent/childhood ‘stand’ stresses the independence of Catrin now that she is grown up Assonance and rhyme used to stress the strength of Catrin at this age. Pick out the sounds that have assonance and those that rhyme.

10 F/H Neither won nor lost the struggle In the glass tank clouded with feelings Which changed us both. Still I am fighting You off, as you stand there With your straight, strong, long Brown hair and your rosy Defiant glare, bringing up From the heart's pool that old rope, Tightening about my life, Trailing love and conflict, As you ask may you skate In the dark, for one more hour. The pool suggests the natural depth of parental love and is one of a number of natural images in this stanza which contrast with the clinical imagery of the first What is this an image of? Now metaphorical rather than literal. Clarke says, “The invisible umbilical cord that ties parents and children even when children grow up. I was also thinking of the image of a boat tied to a harbour wall. The rope is hidden. The boat looks as if it's free, but it isn't.” Emphasising the constant pressures of being a parent. The constant care and conflict as a child grows up. This could also be seen as a metaphorical tug- of-war or even the parent’s battle to let their child grow-up.

11 F/H Neither won nor lost the struggle In the glass tank clouded with feelings Which changed us both. Still I am fighting You off, as you stand there With your straight, strong, long Brown hair and your rosy Defiant glare, bringing up From the heart's pool that old rope, Tightening about my life, Trailing love and conflict, As you ask may you skate In the dark, for one more hour. What could these words suggest? A desire to stay in the womb perhaps? Could it suggest the fact that both parent and child are still ‘in the dark’ about each other? ‘dark’ links to fears and could suggest both the very natural fears of the parents and the fearless nature of children Clarke says, “I'm grateful to you for reading [my poems] and for revealing to me what you find. Poets write instinctively, and don't always see every possible meaning in the words they choose. If you find something, and prove it with quotations, then it's there, and you're right, and don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise. Clarke choose skating after dark because it is an activity that shows that is “beautiful and dangerous to be young”. Perhaps highlighting the tensions of parenthood, wanting your child to be both happy and safe.

12 F/H I can remember you, child, As I stood in a hot, white Room at the window watching The people and cars taking Turn at the traffic lights. I can remember you, our first Fierce confrontation, the tight Red rope of love which we both Fought over. It was square Environmental blank, disinfected Of paintings or toys. I wrote All over the walls with my Words, coloured the clean squares With the wild, tender circles Of our struggle to become Separate. We want, we shouted, To be two, to be ourselves. Neither won nor lost the struggle In the glass tank clouded with feelings Which changed us both. Still I am fighting You off, as you stand there With your straight, strong, long Brown hair and your rosy Defiant glare, bringing up From the heart's pool that old rope, Tightening about my life, Trailing love and conflict, As you ask may you skate In the dark, for one more hour. The poem is focused on the tense relationship between the parent and child. How do you think this poem should be read? Frustrated? Angry? Tenderly? Wistfully? Is this a poem of conflict or love? If it’s conflict, who wins?

13 F/H Comparisons Cold Knap Lake In both poems, life is magically brought forth...yet Cold Knap Lake describes a virtual rebirth when the drowned girl is revived, rather than an actual birth. Both contain conflict, but in Cold Knap Lake it is between the rescued girl and her parents, rather than between Clarke and her mother. Clarke portrays her mother as a heroine in Cold Knap Lake. We are not told Catrin’s feelings for her mother when she forbids her to go skating, but she is unlikely to see her in such glowing terms! The Song of the Old Mother Both poems deal with the conflict between generations, but in Yeats’ poem there is no love. (Do you think that the struggles that Catrin and Clarke have experienced together actually increased their love?). Both are written from the mother’s point of view. Catrin has a looser structure, while The Song is tightly structured. What could this suggest?

14 F/H Comparisons The Affliction of Margaret Both poems are from the mother’s point of view and show that motherhood can be painful. Yet while Margaret laments because she does not know what has happened to her beloved Son; Clarke suffers because of the tension between her and Catrin. Both compare the child they knew (Margaret’s the Young One) with the grown child; both show their pride in their offspring. Margaret’s son was among the prime in worth, Catrin has a rosy, Defiant glare. There is a sense of mystery in Wordsworth’s poem, as no one knows the fate of the son; we pity Margaret. We sense the warmth in Clarke’s relationship with Catrin, however.

15 F/H Comparisons Digging Both poems are intensely personal Both poems deal with the bonds between the generations - in Clarke's poem a mother addresses her child, while in Heaney's a son talks about his father and grandfather. Much of Heaney’s poetry is about parent/child relationships and growing up. Choose one poem we have studied and list the similarities and differences between it and Catrin.

16 F/H Review As you read the poem, do you identify with the mother or the daughter or do you see things from both viewpoints? How far do you think this poem depicts the relationship of parents and children like it is? Is it different for fathers and sons? Should the mother have let her daughter go skating in the dark? Are parents too protective? Would you (will you) allow your children to take more risks?


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