Catrin by Gillian Clarke (Annotated Analysis)

March 29, 2018

Catrin Poem ndash; A Poem by Gillian Clarke

This poem refers to the intense emotional bond between mother and daughter

Annotated Analysis

Following on from our text version and summary of the poem, here is our expert analysis

Catrin (the speaker’s – most likely the poet’s – daughter)

I can remember you, child,

As I stood in a hot, white

Room at the window watching (in the hospital, before she was born)

The people and cars taking

Turn at the traffic lights.

I can remember youour first (repetition of the earlier phrase: parents often refer back to their children being born at important moments in their life)

Fierce confrontation, the tight (the labour)

Red rope of love which we both

Fought over. It was a square (the umbilical cord – the speaker likens the birthing process to a tug of war between mother and baby)

Environmental blank, disinfected

Of paintings or toys. I wrote

All over the walls with my

Words, coloured the clean squares (there was nothing in the room – at least nothing that the speaker can remember – other than her screams/shouts)

With the wild, tender circles (it was ‘a labour of love’ all the same)

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 (seems to be a reference to the maternity ward once again; if this were Plath, you could infer this is a metaphor for life itself and the life mother and daughter shared early on)

Which changed us both. Still I am fighting

You off, as you stand there (where love is, there will always be some form of tension; ironically, this time the mother is fighting to be with rather than apart from her daughter)

With your straight, strong, long

Brown hair and your rosy,

Defiant glare, bringing up

From the heart’s pool that old rope, (although her daughter is being ‘defiant’, she cannot help but love her, perhaps even for her defiance)

Tightening about my life, (this love gives her life meaning and structure)

Trailing love and conflict, (the paradox of all parent-child relationships)

As you ask may you skate

In the dark, for one more hour. (the moment that sparks this poem, it seems)

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