Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have all chosen women as their poet laureates this year. The five (let’s not forget Scotland and Wales get their say) are: Sinéad Morrisey, Paula Meehan, Liz Lochhead, Gillian Clarke and Carol Ann Duffy. It’s definitely a move to celebrate, but it’s important to keep in mind that VIDA’s 2013 count of women published in literary arts journals in the U.K. and U.S. was still pretty disgraceful.
The Guardian has republished some of these women’s laurel-deserving work. Here we see Clarke’s exquisite “Polar,” which laments the human destruction of a fiercely beautiful nature.
Gillian Clarke, national poet of Wales
Snowlight and sunlight, the lake glacial.
Too bright to open my eyes
in the dazzle and doze
of a distant January afternoon.
It’s long ago and the house naps in the plush silence
of a house asleep, like absence,
I’m dreaming on the white bear’s shoulder,
paddling the slow hours, my fingers in his fur.
His eyes are glass, each hair a needle of light.
He’s pegged by his claws to the floor like a shirt on the line.
He is a soul. He is what death is. He is transparency.
a loosening floe on the sea.
But I want him alive.
I want him fierce
with belly and breath and growl and beating heart,
I want him dangerous,
I want to follow him over the snows
between the immaculate earth and now,
between the silence and the shot that rang
over the ice at the top of the globe,
when the map of the earth was something we knew by heart,
and they had not shot the bear,
had not loosed the ice,
had not, had not …
Read more of these laureates’ work here.
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata