Gillian Clarke’s ‘Catrin’ deals with the often tense but loving relationship of a mother and daughter the conflict that can arise. It explores this idea through two separate confrontations: one is the birth; the other is as a teenager who wants to play out after dark. She uses very simple language, which indicates the simple, intense feelings that the poem conveys.
The title simply tells us the name of the child involved in the poem. Her name is not mentions again in the poem, which reflects the universality of the poem. Yet also, since the poem is addressed to the child shown by the use of the second person, it may be that the relationship is so close that names are unnecessary.
The first stanza is in past tense, as Clarke remembers the birth of her daughter. The repetition of ‘I can remember’ shows that she is thinking back an earlier time in their relationship. The poem begins in the labour ward of the hospital. The images of the hospital as sterile, ‘blank’ and devoid of feelings contrasts with the personal nature of the event. Also she remembers the experience as being clinical. This implies that she felt that the hospital stole some of the personal joy of birth from her.
Before the actual birth, Clarke looks out the window at ‘the people and cars’ going about their everyday business; she in contrast, is about to experience on of the most momentous events of her life. ‘Turn at the traffic lights’
This also suggests the progress through life/labour as the traffic lights change. The poet also mentions the ‘red rope of love’, which represents the umbilical cord. It is red because of the blood that flowed between the mother and the child in the womb but it is also red as it is a symbol of passion and love. Red contrasts with the stark, white hospital surroundings.
In contrast, mother and the child ‘fought over’ the cord. The verb fought suggests the brutality and pain of childbirth. Clarke is marvelling at how love...
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