Gillian Clarke's Powerful Poem, "A Difficult Birth, Easter 1998". I Oxford Open Learning
Gillian Clarke

Gillian Clarke’s Powerful Poem, “A Difficult Birth, Easter 1998”.

Often, when we read poetry, we don’t think about the poet’s inspiration, or whether the poem is written in response to a specific event. Perhaps we should think more about what lies behind a poet’s ideas, though – and there is no better place to start than with Gillian Clarke’s ‘A Difficult Birth, Easter 1998’.

The Good Friday Agreement

Gillian Clarke was the National Poet of Wales for 8 years, from 2008-2016, and she is particularly well-known as a poet who features in different GCSE and A-Level English Literature courses. ‘A Difficult Birth, Easter 1998’ is definitely worth reading at this time of the year, when we see sheep all over giving birth to their young, but it’s important to understand that it references the Good Friday agreement – this involved the signing of two agreements to put an end to the troubles in Northern Ireland which had been dominant for a long time. In the poem, Clarke says how it is,

Good Friday, and the Irish peace deal close,
and tonight she’s serious, restless and hoofing the straw


It is significant that the poet is referencing a very important time in history, whilst linking it to the trials and traumas that a sheep has as it is about to give birth. Through the poem, we learn that the Northern Irish troubles are coming to an end – and that these have been in existence ‘… eight decades/since Easter 1916…’ Even though a sheep giving birth is not, literally, the same as a major political situation, metaphorically, Clarke is likening the situations. This allows us, the readers, to not only appreciate thought-provoking poetry, but also to be reminded of something very important from our recent history.

Coupled with this, Clarke references the religious meaning of Easter, too, with the final two lines in the poem, which are,

Then the second lamb slips through her opened door, the stone rolled away.

Have A Read Of Gillian Clarke’s Poem Yourself

It is healthy to read poetry for enjoyment, but also to make us think. If you don’t know Gillian Clarke’s ‘A Difficult Birth, Easter 1998’, now is the time of year to read it. You can do so by following the link here.

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