Page last updated at 17:33 GMT, Monday, 31 March 2008 18:33 UK

Clarke named Wales' national poet

Gillian Clarke (Photo: Owain Llyr)
Clarke says attention must be paid to Wales' bilingual nature

Gillian Clarke, a familiar name to GCSE and A Level students and teachers alike, is Wales' third national poet.

She succeeds Professor Gwyn Thomas in the role, whose first incumbent was Gwyneth Lewis, writer of the words on the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff.

Originally from Cardiff, she now lives on a smallholding in Ceredigion.

Making the announcement, the Welsh literature promotion agency Academi said there had been a surge in national pride following Wales' Grand Slam.

The agency said "it couldn't be a better time to be Welsh."

Welsh pop singer Duffy was storming the charts, Torchwood and Doctor Who were "making Cardiff the premier destination for aliens across the universe" and the new national poet given the "very British poet laureate a run for his money".

Mother Tongue

You'd hardly call it a nest, just a scrape in the stones, but she's all of a dither warning the wind and sky with her desperate cries.

If we walk away she'll come home quiet to the warm brown pebble with its cargo of blood and hunger, where the future believes in itself,

and the beat of the sea is the pulse of a blind helmeted embryo afloat in the twilight of the egg, learning the language.
Gillian Clarke

Clarke, who works as a poet, playwright, editor, creative writing tutor and translator is well known in schools across the UK as a set-text poet for GCSE and A-level English.

She is the author of several volumes of poetry and many broadcast plays. Next month a collection of prose writing At the Source is published, and later this year another poetry collection, A Recipe for Water, will follow.

She is resident of Ty Newydd, the writers´ centre in Llanystumdwy, Gwynedd, which she co-founded in 1990.

She said she was delighted to accept the post, established in 2005 with Arts Council of Wales funding.

She compared the title national poet for Wales to the conch shell in William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies.

"If you happen to be holding it, you may speak.

"The trick must be to carry it carefully, not to drop it, and, while holding it, to speak with tact, passion, truth, persuasion."

She said she saw the role as "ambassadorial, within and outside Wales. I hope it will open doors."

"I interpret Academi's chosen model for the role of national poet as being one of cumulative development, one poet's work building on another's, with careful attention paid to the bilingual nature of Wales"

Academi chief executive Peter Finch said the role required an ability to communicate "to write well and often, and to have a regular rout into that magic that makes verse work."

Mr Finch said Clarke "as one of out best-selling exports" was simply the best person he could think of for the job.

Clarke will officially be welcomed at two events in Llanystumdwy and the National Museum Wales in Cardiff later this month.


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