Both Gillian Clarke and R. S Thomas were born in Cardiff in 1937 and 1913 respectively. Before becoming a poet, Gillian Clarke had been a part-time lecturer and also an editor, she is very much a poet of place, in her case, Wales, and likes to see herself as being the voice of the Welsh people. All of her stories are true and she portrays her experiences very well through the language used in her poetry. She is now a tutor on the university of Glamorgan’s M. A in writing. Thomas was a Welsh clergyman and poet whose lucid, austere verse expresses an undeviating affirmation of the values of the common man.
Thomas was educated in Wales and ordained in the Church of Wales (1936), in which he held several appointments, including vicar of St. Hywyn (Aberdaron) with St. Mary (Bodferi) from 1967, as well as rector of Rhiw with Llanfaelrhys from 1973. He published his first volume of poetry in 1946 and gradually developed his unadorned style with each new collection. His early poems, most notably those found in Stones of the Field (1946) and Song at the Year’s Turning Point: Poems 1942-1954 (1955), contained a harshly critical but increasingly compassionate view of the Welsh people and their stark homeland.
In Thomas’ later volumes, starting with Poetry for Supper (1958), the subjects of his poetry remained the same, yet his questions became more specific, his irony more bitter, and his compassion deeper. In such later works as The Way of It (1977), Frequencies (1978), Between Here and Now (1981), and Later Poems 1972-1982 (1983), Thomas was not without hope when he described with mournful derision the cultural decay affecting his parishioners, his country, and the modern world.
In fact R. S. Thomas had such an influence on Gillian Clarke that she wrote a poem entitled ‘R. S’, dedicated to his memory, It is as follows: – For R. S. Thomas (1913-2000) His death on the midnight news. Suddenly colder. Gold Septemberi?? s driven off by something afoot in the south-west approaches. God’s breathing in space out there misting the heave of the seas dark and empty tonight, except for the one frail coracle borne out to sea, burning. By Gillian Clarke
In this poem I believe that Gillian Clarke is paying tribute to the passion and fervour of her fellow Welshman. She respects his integrity and individuality. In his poem ‘Welsh landscape’, Thomas makes a controversial point that if Wales carries on going like it is then it will have no future, only a past. His main aim is for every Welshman to read this poem and try to prove him wrong, try to make Wales a better place. Clarkes’ poem is related to R. S Thomas’ in the fact that hers is about people doing what R.
S Thomas wanted them to; they are trying to make Wales a better place, by demolishing the old steelworks. In her poem she highlights the conflict between man and nature, between an industrial past and the need to make fresh beginning. The settings of the two poems are very different, East Moors is set in an industrial Welsh mining town, where as Welsh Landscape is set very much in rural Wales, R. S Thomas speaks of ‘the noisy tractor’ and ‘hum of the machine’ (cutting and working on fields) and ‘Hushed at the fields corners.
‘ Whereas Gillian Clarke gives an authentic sense of place by using real place names, this is emphasized by her description of a mining town, where housing was set up when the works opened to accommodate the workers nearby. These were narrow terraced houses with little space and long narrow gardens, and in stanza three of East Moors she describes how; – ‘In Roath and Rumney now, washing strung in the narrow gardens will stay clean. ‘ Gillian Clarke creates the image of a deprived mining town very well in her poem and the striking difference between stanzas one and two is very clear.
The first stanza states her clear resentment at what has happened. It has been a ‘bitter’ time and her relief that it is over is echoed in the words ‘at last’, at last they are able to see the ‘white’ trees (when in bloom a trees white blossom would usually have been died a grimy greyish colour by the pollution and smoke bellowing from the East Moors steelworks), She can also see a ‘flash’ of sea and ‘two blue islands beyond the city where the steelworks used to smoke’ (both were formally obscured from vision by the enormous structure of the steelworks).