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Sophie Laniel-Musitelli

Published On


Page Range

pp. 69–92


  • English

3. Still Life and Vital Matter in Gillian Clarke’s Poetry

Gillian Clarke’s most recent collections of poems—Making the Beds for the Dead (2004), A Recipe for Water (2009), Ice (2012), and Zoology (2017)—draw on new developments in biological and physical sciences to explore the mutual convergences and constant metamorphoses between organic bodies and inorganic matter. In her recent works, living and non-living bodies evolve and morph into one another through moments of emergence and disappearance, such as embryogenesis, metamorphosis, fossilization, as well as the formation and dissolution of rock and ice. Clarke’s poetry endeavours to reveal the vitality of inorganic matter by registering its moments of change, “a difference in the pulse of things” (“Oestrus”, Z, 46). That renewed interest in science corresponds to an environmental turn. Attending to the energies of nonhuman bodies and non-living matter is part of Clarke’s commitment to environmental poetics. Because she was the national poet of Wales from 2008 to 2016, she is often categorized as a local poet. Yet, her recent poetry, inspired by climate science, rearticulates the local and the global, human temporality and geological times: poetic creation draws on the scientific imagination to alter the scales of space and time.


Sophie Laniel-Musitelli