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.

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