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Poem sent for Obama inauguration

Gillian Clarke
Gillian Clarke said the reaction gave her a great feeling of hope

Wales' national poet Gillian Clarke has written a poem marking Barack Obama's inauguration as US president.

Clarke said she was "delighted" to have been commissioned to pen the poem for the historic occasion.

Obama will become the first African American to hold the post when he is installed as the 44th president.

Clarke, whose work is studied for GCSE and A level exams, said she had been inspired by the reaction of pupils in Birmingham, England, to the election.

The poet originally from Cardiff but now living in Ceredigion explained: "A few days after his election I was performing in front of 2,000 schoolchildren in Birmingham.

"Academi's message that they wanted me to write a poem for Obama came through and I was introduced by the chief examiner as the National Poet of Wales who will write a poem for Obama.

NEW YEAR, 2009

Venus in the arc of the young moon

is a boat the arms of a bay,

the sky clear to infinity

but for the trailing gossamer

of a transatlantic plane.

The old year and the old era dead,

pushed burning out to sea

bearing the bones of heroes, tyrants,

ideologues, thieves and deceivers

in a smoke of burning money.

The dream is over. Glaciers will melt.

Seas will rise to swallow golden islands.

Somewhere a volcano may whelm a city,

earth shake its skin like an old horse,

a hurricane topple a town to rubble.

Yet tonight, under the cold beauty

of the moon and Venus, something like hope begins,

as if times can turn, the world change course,

as if truth can speak, good men come to power,

and words have meaning again.

Maybe black-hearted boys in love with death

won't blow themselves and us to smithereens.

Maybe guns will fall silent, the powerful

cease slaughtering the weak, the rich

will not gorge as the poor starve.

Hope spoke the word 'Yes', the word 'we', the word 'can',

and a thousand British teenagers at Poetry Live

rose to their feet in a single yell of joy -

black, white, Christian, Muslim, Jew,

faithful and faithless. We are all in this together.

Ie. gallwn ni. (Yes, we can)


"Immediately all the children stood up cheering and hugging each other and I was astounded.

"If 15-year-old kids get excited about Barack Obama winning the election, then it gives me this great feeling of hope, a hope that we can all share in.

"It is not just that we believe he's a good man or an eloquent man, but that we somehow need him to be a man who appreciates language and truth, and will make all the lies of the last eight years disappear.

"We're on his side and we'll try to make it work.

"We're all black now. And it's taught us all - from schoolchildren in Birmingham to poets in Wales - that if you're black, you can do it; if you're a woman, you can do it; if you're young, you can do it. And if you're Welsh, we can do it."

Baraclk Obama
Barack Obama will become the 44th US President next week

Academi, which promotes literature in Wales, has sent the poem to president-elect Obama along with another in Welsh from the Welsh-language Children's Laureate Ifor ap Glyn.

Clarke is the third National Poet of Wales, a role established in 2005 by Academi with Arts Council of Wales Lottery funding.

Gwyneth Lewis was the first incumbent, followed by Professor Gwyn Thomas.

Clarke's work is studied in schools across the UK .

From November 2008 to February 2009 she will have performed her work in front of over 100,000 schoolchildren as part of the Poetry Live! events.

In February she will read and discuss her work with 900 English students in Dubai.

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