The Wilfred Owen Association is pleased and proud to announce that Gillian Clarke has agreed to accept the Wilfred Owen Poetry Award for 2012. She will be the first woman poet to receive it.
Gillian Clarke, the National Poet of Wales, and recipient of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2010, was born in 1937 and brought up in Cardiff. Although both of her parents were Welsh-speakers, she was not brought up to speak the language but – like R.S.Thomas – learned it as an adult. She and her husband now live in mid-Wales, where, in addition to all their other activities, they run an organic smallholding.
Gillian studied English at the University of Wales in Cardiff, and worked briefly at the BBC before marriage and motherhood. Her first mature poem, “The Sun Dial”, became the title poem of her first collection in 1978: there have been eleven volumes since, published mostly by Carcanet. Gillian was Editor for some years of the Anglo-Welsh Review , and is closely connected with the Writers’ Centre at Tŷ Newydd, near Cricieth in North Wales – at which the WOA now offers an annual bursary.
The WOA likes to give the Award to writers who have created a substantial body of work over the years. We do not at all insist that the recipient should be primarily a “war poet”, but it is naturally a major theme for modern poets, and all the recipients so far have, at one time or another, tackled the subject of war. Gillian Clarke has written a number of such poems – notably about the Bosnian War and the First Gulf War. Poems such as “The Field Mouse” and “Siege” dramatically and poignantly use the Welsh landscape as both backdrop and metaphor for human hope and human cruelty.
In October 2011, a number of WOA members were able to meet Gillian, and to hear her read, at the opening of the Forester’s House near Ors. Following upon this, the Committee unanimously agreed to offer her the WOA Award for this coming year. The award is made every two years, and previous recipients include the late Christopher Logue, Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Tony Harrison, Dannie Abse and Professor Jon Stallworthy. Gillian Clarke is a distinguished addition to this list.
The Award will take place as close as possible to Remembrance weekend in 2012 – details will follow as soon as they can be confirmed.