National Poet of Wales Salutes Obama

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Academi, the Welsh National Literature Promotion Agency, has posted a special letter to President Elect Barack Obama containing poems by the National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke, and Bardd Plant Cymru (Welsh-language Children’s Laureate), Ifor ap Glyn.


The two poems are sent to mark the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States on Tuesday 20 January. Barack Obama will be the first African American to hold this office. Gillian Clarke, of Talgarreg, Ceredigion, was “delighted” to be commissioned by Academi to write a poem in honour of the historic occasion.


Gillian Clarke’s work is read and enjoyed by thousands around the world. Her work is studied in schools across the UK as part of the English Literature course and from November 2008 to February 2009 she will have performed her work in front of over 100,000 schoolchildren as part of the highly successful Poetry Live! events. In February she will read and discuss her work with 900 English literature students in Dubai.


The post of National Poet of Wales was established in 2005 by Academi with Arts Council of Wales Lottery funding. Gwyneth Lewis was the first incumbent, followed by Professor Gwyn Thomas in 2006. Gillian Clarke is the third National Poet of Wales.

Here's the English version of the poem

New Year, 2009


Venus in the arc of the young moon

is a boat the arms of a bay,

the sky clear to infinity

but for the trailing gossamer

of a transatlantic plane. 


The old year and the old era dead,

pushed burning out to sea

bearing the bones of heroes, tyrants,

ideologues, thieves and deceivers

in a smoke of burning money.


The dream is over. Glaciers will melt.

Seas will rise to swallow golden islands.

Somewhere a volcano may whelm a city,

earth shake its skin like an old horse,

a hurricane topple a town to rubble.


Yet tonight, under the cold beauty

of the moon and Venus, something like hope begins,

as if times can turn, the world change course,

as if truth can speak, good men come to power, 

and words have meaning again.


Maybe black-hearted boys in love with death

won’t blow themselves and us to smithereens.

Maybe guns will fall silent, the powerful

cease slaughtering the weak, the rich

will not gorge as the poor starve.


Hope spoke the word ‘Yes’, the word ‘we’, the word ’can’,

and a thousand British teenagers at Poetry Live[1]

rose to their feet in a single yell of joy ?"

black, white, Christian, Muslim, Jew,

faithful and faithless. We are all in this together.

Ie. gallwn ni.[2]

[1] A day of poetry readings for school students

[2] Yes, we can. Welsh

◄ Job: Poet in Residence, The Wordsworth Trust

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