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Catrin by Gillian Clark
Transcript of Catrin by Gillian Clark
can remember you, child,
As I stood in a hot, white
Room at the window watching
The people and cars taking
Turn at the traffic lights.
I can remember you, our first
Fierce confrontation, the tight
Red rope of love which we both
All over the walls with my
Words, coloured the clean squares
With the wild, tender circles
Of our struggle to become
Separate. We want, we shouted,
To be two, to be ourselves.
Neither won nor lost the struggle
In the glass tank clouded with feelings
Which changed us both. Still I am fighting
You off, as you stand there
With your straight, strong, long
Brown hair and your rosy,
Defiant glare, bringing up
From the heart's pool that old rope,
Tightening about my life,
Trailing love and conflict,
As you ask may you skate
In the dark, for one more hour
Throughout the poem, we see the changes in Clarke's emotions for her daughter. In the beginning, the reasons for conflict were due to the fact that Clarke didn't feel particularly fond or loving towards Catrin. However, right at the end of the poem, the reasons for their conflict are due to the love and protectiveness that Clarke feels towards her. Towards the end, there is a sense of understanding as Clarke realises how much she actually does love her daughter regardless of her past feelings. At the start, she didn't want Catrin yet she was still there. At the end, she desperately wants Catrin but she is slipping away.
This poem is about the tense relationship between a mother (Gillian Clarke) and her daughter, Catrin, the namesake of the poem. It covers two confrontations between the two: Catrin's birth and an argument several years later.
The poem refers to the mother - child relationship between them and is wrought with very personal emotions. Clarke makes a complete turn around in the poem concerning her feelings towards her daughter. At Catrin's birth, she is incredibly regretful and totally against the idea, feeling trapped by their closeness, by the ''tight red rope of love''. Whereas, years on, Clarke sturdily resists her daughter's need for independence as she becomes a teenager.
When Clark talks about the 'environmental blank', it symbolises her life before Catrin was born and how it was fairly empty and simple with not much there to complicate it. There was nothing in her environment apart from herself, known from the use of the word 'blank', showing how, as her life was empty, she had limited emotion.
Even the use of the word square shows how she expected things to be exactly the same as everyone else as all the sides and angles of a square a the same, fixed and rigid. This may also show how she didn't ever think how anything would ever change as all squares are the same with no variations.
In the context of the hospital, it may show how everything was very rigid and set and there was a clear way of how things were supposed to be. It may have meant to be very organised from the use of 'environmental blank' and 'disinfectant' signaling regularity so maybe she felt as though everything was supposed to go a certain way.
As it was 'disinfected of paintings and toys' she also may have expected certain things to happen which did not, such as love for her child, as you would expect for there to be paintings and especially toys around babies.
By Abigail Graveson, Daisy Watson and Hannah Sayles
Lines 12 - 19
A circle is often seen as everlasting and here I feel that it symbolises a bond that cannot be broken, everlasting love between a mother and her daughter. It is almost like Clarke is saying that they are always going to argue but they will always come back together. This shows a mixture of feelings, both wild and tender, and it further shows the bond between Gillian Clarke and her daughter.
'It was a square
Environmental blank, disinfected
Of paintings or toys.
The word "separate" is on it's own line, even though it is a continuation of the line before. This adds to the feeling of being alone, as on the previous line, Clarke was talking about how her and her daughter were trying to become separate from each other, and the fact that this word was on it's own on the next line is used to make the reader get the impression that being separate is lonely and not really what is best for Clarke and Catrin, even though at the time, that is what they are fighting for.
At the start of this poem, Clarke talks about herself and Catrin as two completely separate people. saying "I" and "you" but by the end of the first stanza, Clarke has started saying "we" which starts to show how the love and bond between them is growing, and it is clear that Clarke's love for Catrin is increasing, even though it is hinted that she did not originally want to be a mother.
"glass tank clouded with feelings"
I feel that this line in the poem is significant in representing the relationship between Clarke and her daughter, because Clarke writes about clouded glass. and glass is supposed to be clear and easy to see through, and yet the feelings are not easy to understand and therefore the mother-daughter relationship is rough and hard to come to terms with. The fact that the feelings are clouded suggests that Clarke doesn't really know what's going on between her and Catrin now that she is a teenager, and this indicates that their feelings towards each other are different to how they used to be or they are not as easy to grasp as she thought they would be, not like when Catrin was younger. Finally, glass is fragile and can break easily, and so it is interesting that this is what Clarke uses to describe her relationship with her daughter, because it shows that it can easily break down and things between them can deteriorate quickly over small things.
"Neither won nor lost"
This line gives me the impression that Clarke and her daughter are constantly going back and forwards arguing between each other, and yet neither of them ever win. This could be because they argue over pointless subjects or because after a while they move on from an argument and forgive each other. This could be the reason why Clarke seems unsure as to what sort of relationship she has with Catrin, because they are constantly arguing and then moving on, then jumping into another argument over yet another small thing.
The way Clarke at first refers to Catrin as 'child' suggest some amount of coldness and distance, and possibly even a slight bit of contempt. As if the birth of her child has almost ruined her life in a way. She feels that everything is going to change and she will be unable to live a happy life with Catrin's entrance into the world.
Clarke refers to the room as 'hot' and 'white', Clarke feels as if she is being trapped, or suffocated by the clinical hospital room.. The use of the word 'hot' as opposed to warm suggests a degree of discomfort.
In these two lines, Gillian Clarke reflects upon the contrast of the normality and everyday life which continues onwards outside, and (what she feels is) a life changing event which has just occurred for her. Clarke highlights the striking difference between the everyday grey and her fiery emotions which are exposed in the poem.
Literally, I think Clarke is talking about the umbilical cord that anchored Catrin to her for nine months. She uses the adjective 'tight' when talking about it, suggesting that once again she feels trapped by Catrin. Metaphorically, Clarke is also referring to the bond between a mother and daughter. I think she portrays this bond as a tug of war, each pulling back and forth. As Catrin enters her teenage years, she begins to test this more and stretch her boundaries. The 'tight red rope of love could also symbolise a hangman's noose, reiterating Clarke's feelings of being trapped by the birth of Catrin. The use of the word red also summons up very passionate emotions such as anger, hatred and love.
Here, we can tell that Catrin has become more independent and a stronger person who is trying to break away from her mother, Gillian Clarke. Furthermore, she seems to have some opposition and disinclination of her own for her mother from the use of the word 'glare', suggesting that she feels scorn or even disdain towards Clarke.
Before, the conflict was because Clarke didn't love her daughter, now it is these very feeling of love which cause the conflict. At first, she was fighting herself and the conflict was in her mind over what she should be, but maybe wasn't, feeling. Now, she is fighting directly against Catrin
Here, we see that Clarke's feelings for Catrin have changed so she has come through their early difficulties a better person. In the first stanza, line 7, there is a 'fierce confrontation' though Catrin is only newborn. Here, we see how, even though both have changed, the confrontation and defiance remains. Clarke may be trying to tell us here that, even when the circumstances don't change (in her situation there is still a confrontation and defiance, the feelings and emotions can. Whilst still faced with defiance, Clarke has gone from detesting to loving her daughter teaching us that the situation doesn't have to determine the outcome or emotion we feel.
With your straight, strong, long
Brown hair and your rosy,
Clarke admires her daughter here and tells us how beautiful she has become, showing that she is proud of her. The word 'rosy', rooting from the word rose, symbolises love and beauty but also the paradox meaning of danger and strength. Furthermore, the word rosy also indicates youth, showing that Clarke still things of Catrin as a child when she is becoming an adult. As for speaking of her brown, straight, long hair, it symbolises maturity and confidence, a strong conviction in herself which Clarke is coming to realize but maybe not quite yet accept.
A rope represents strength and is yet another link to the beginning of the poem when they fought over the 'red rope of love' which bonded them together as one. Now however, it is tightening around Clarke's life. When we look at this in context, we can see that she is reflecting on everything they have gone through together. The 'hearts pool' may mean the bottom of her heart so there is nothing she feels stronger for than Catrin. With the word 'trailing' used a couple of lines later, she may feel as if she is losing the Catrin, who was once held so tightly to her with the rope.
As you ask may you skate
In the dark, for one more hour
Right at the end, we see how Clarke feels protective over Catrin and doesn't want her to get hurt. The dark symbolises danger and the unknown so Clarke is scared as she doesn't want any harm to come to her. Catrin is becoming her own person unlike the end of the first stanza where they were struggling to be separate, 'to be two'. She realises that actually, after all this time, she loves Catrin very much and doesn't want to lose her.