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Clarke, Gillian, 1937-
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Gillian Clarke is a poet, writer, editor and broadcaster.
Gillian Kieft Williams was born in Cardiff in 1937, the daughter of Ceinwin and Penri Williams. Her mother originated from Denbighshire and her father was a native of Carmarthenshire, and although both parents spoke Welsh their children were educated through the medium of English. She attended schools in Barry, Penarth and Porthcawl, and read English at University College, Cardiff, where she graduated in 1958. She spent two years working as a researcher in the News Information Department for the BBC in London, before returning to Wales. In 1960 she married Peter Clarke and devoted the following years to raising their three children.
Gillian Clarke's poems were first published in Poetry Wales in 1970, and she was soon recognised as one of the leading Welsh poets writing in English. Her first collection of poems, Snow on the mountain, was published in 1971, followed by The sundial (1978), Letter from a far country (1982), Letting in the rumour (1989), The King of Britain's daughter (1993), Five fields (1998), and Making the beds for the dead (2004). A volume of Selected poems was published in 1985 and her Collected poems appeared in 1997. Commissioned poems include Nine Green Gardens (2000), Owain Glyn Dwr (2000), and Bioverse (2000); and some have been performed on radio, e.g. 'Talking in the dark' (1975), and 'Letter from a far country' (1979). In addition, she has written poems for children, including The Animal Wall (1999), and her work has been published in various anthologies and is studied by GCSE and A-Level students. Essays, articles, short stories and reviews by Gillian Clarke have appeared in numerous publications. In recent years she has written several plays which have been performed in theatre and on radio, including 'The Blue Man' (2000) and 'Letter from a far country' (2004, adapted from the poem of the same title).
Although Welsh is her second language, the language and culture are an inherent feature of her writing, as is the rural background to much of her work and her experiences as a woman. She has learnt Welsh and published poems in the language, and occasionally incorporates elements of Welsh-language writing, such as traditional Welsh metres and vocabulary, in her English work. Stories translated by her from Welsh were published in One Moonlit Night (1991), and she has translated Welsh poems into English, most notably those by Menna Elfyn.
Gillian Clarke has held various freelance teaching posts over the years. She was a lecturer in art history at Gwent College of Art and Design between 1975 and 1984. In 1984-1985 she held a writing fellowship at St. David's University College, Lampeter, and has tutored students on an M.Phil. course in Creative Writing at the University of Glamorgan since 1994. She has taught creative writing to school children and adults for a number of years and organised and participated in poetry workshops and readings in England and Wales. She has travelled abroad on writers' exchange visits, given poetry readings and lectures as far afield as Europe and the United States, and her work has been translated into several languages. In 1971 she became reviews editor of The Anglo-Welsh Review, and succeeded Roland Mathias as editor of the journal from 1976 to 1984.
Gillian Clarke is a member of Academi and a past Chair of Yr Academi Gymreig (English Language Section). In 1990 she co-founded Tŷ Newydd, and has been President of the writers' centre in North Wales; she was also appointed Chair of the Taliesin Trust in 1989. She has been honoured by Aberystwyth, Cardiff and Swansea Colleges of the University of Wales, and in 1997 a volume of essays, poems and tributes by other writers and critics, edited by Menna Elfyn, Trying the Line, was compiled to mark her sixtieth birthday.
She lives with her second husband on a smallholding in Talgarreg, Ceredigion.
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