Walking by water through the gates
of castle, mountains, sky, I think of him,
working the stone-boats on the Menai Straits
to the salt psalm of the sea and the wind's hymn
in the tug and thrust of the tide.
from 'Quayside' by Gillian Clarke
The drop of water on the tongue, writes Gillian Clarke, 'was the first word in the world', and the language of water is the element in which these poems live. Ocean currents create histories and cultures - the port cities of Cardiff and Mumbai; myths are born where great rivers have their source high in the mountains. A bottle of spring water contains the mineral elements of life; we can read the earth's deep history in arctic ice. We share the rhythms of migrations in the pull of tides and seasons through rivers and estuaries.
In her first collection since becoming the National Poet of Wales in 2008, Gillian Clarke explores water as memory and meaning, the bearer of stories that well up from a personal and collective past to return us to the language of the imagination in which we first named the world.
Clarke's mellifluous new collection [A Recipe for Water] is her first since her appointment as Wales's national poet in 2008. The drop of water on the tongue, she tells us, 'was the first word in the world', and it's through water that these poems give up their stories: history is written into the Arctic's ice; myths well up from river sources; the currents on the ocean wash culture and heritage onto our shores. Watery collections have poured forth from the pens of poets from Sean O'Brien to Maura Dooley in recent years; anticipation is high for Clarke's contribution to the pool'.
Sarah Crown, the Guardian, 3 January 2009
'Gillian Clarke'€™s [poems] ring with lucidity and power... Clarke'€™s work is both personal and archetypal, built out of language as concrete as it is musical.'