‘Jac Codi Baw’ and ‘East Moors’

In the poems ‘Jac Codi Baw’ and ‘East Moors’ Gillian Clarke writes about the demolition of particular buildings and is able to create a strong sense of place. Write about each poem and explore the effect the events have on individuals and the community.

Gillian Clarke is a female poet. She was born in Cardiff in 1937. She is one of the most popular Welsh poets of today. I will be looking at two poems, which are both written by Gillian Clarke, they are ‘Jac Codi Baw’ and ‘East Moors’. Both of these poems describe the demolition of a building, in each poem Clarke explores the effects the events have on individuals and the community.

In the poem ‘Jac Codi Baw’ Clarke describes an incident in her life. The title itself is Welsh and it literally means ‘Jack raises the dirt’. People started using this phrase as a nickname for the massive earth-moving machine, which has the letters J.C.B.

This particular poem is about the destruction of a building. The overall theme of this poem is ‘change’ and Clarke carefully describes her reaction to this change. In this poem Clarke shows a lot of emissions, her anger and hatred to the people that were in charge of the demolition of this building.

There is no real structure to this poem; it has two free verses, which means that the verses haven’t got any regular pattern. Overall the poet deals with Transience, which is the passing of time. In the first stanza Clarke describes how fast the demolition was and in the second stanza Clarke describes how the J.C.B driver doesn’t care and how we are the ones who are killing buildings. She makes this clear by saying ‘Blood on our hands’ which makes us think that we have murdered this building.

The building is valuable to her as she is Welsh and so is the building. She takes it very personally, by saying ‘Inside the car dust lies, grit in my eyes, in my hair’ by saying this Clarke draws my attention to the fact that the building got ruined, so did she and her car and she gives the impression that she likes the old Wales as it is and doesn’t want it to change, she shows this by saying ‘the handwriting of a city will be erased’ by this phrase Clarke means the structure of the place, all the buildings side by side are the handwriting of the City but by demolishing a building the hand writing of the City is being erased.

Clarke writes her poem in such a way that it seems like the building that was demolished is alive, by using personification, for example, ‘windows blind with boarding’ Clarke used this phrase to make the reader think that the building is a person or individual and she says,’blood, smoky with ghosts, which suggests that the building is old and haunted, but its alive.

Clarke is shocked by this dramatic change because she goes shopping and by the time she comes back she is amazed to see the building she parked her car next to has turned to a pile of bricks and wood, she says ‘they have torn down in the space of time it takes to fill a shopping bag’ this shows us how fast it took to demolish this building, and this tells us how easy it was to erase the cities hand writing. Clarke doesn’t mind natural change of the building by weather or/and by age, she says ‘ we are used to the slow change that weather brings, the gradual death of a generation, old bricks crumbling’, but she is astonished to see the destruction of this building.

The first sentence in the second stanza is ‘He doesn’t care’ which strikes me, the reader. Here Clarke is talking about the J.C.B driver and how he doesn’t care about the demolition of the building. It’s just his job, he was told to do it and nobody can stop him. It is a normal everyday thing to him; ‘It’s a joke to him’ by using this phrase Clarke shows how the J.C.B driver has a complete opposite feelings to her. She is very angry at what has happened, but he is simply finding it as a joke. Clarke describes the J.C.B driver as being in his ‘yellow machine, cat-calling, laughing at my grief’ by using the word yellow she emphasises cheerfulness, this reflects the J.C.B driver mood as being happy because of what he is doing.

Yellow is an adjective, which describes a noun; the noun in this sentence is the machine ‘yellow machine’. Clarke uses the words ‘cat-calling’ this is about the machine and this is personification of the machine, the machine is cat-calling. By using these words she means the noise the machine is making as it lifts its trunk up and down, this movement also looks like a person laughing, and so the machine looks like its laughing at her grief. This part of the sentence is also personification because the machine looks like a laughing person.

One of the phrases that Clarke uses in this poem stands out, it is when she says ‘I can’t laugh’ this is an unexpected phrase and it makes the event sound personal to her. Clarke ends the poem by saying ‘Bloods on our hands’ she uses this distinctive phrase, which really stands out and it really draws the readers attention. It’s kind of a summary of her feelings. This phrase has indirect personification, personifying the building, making it sound like a person and we killed it so we have blood on our hands.

The phrase ‘splattered with stones, blood…’ makes me think that Clarke’s car is red which represents blood because obviously the building was demolished with no one inside it, so there wasn’t real blood but I think of Clarke’s car as being red. I also imagine her car with smashed glass and dents in it from flying parts falling of the building. But when I read the phrase ‘smoky with ghosts’ I imagine smoke coming out of the demolished building and ghosts rising from the dirt and flying away from the ruins, going to find another old building to haunt.

The overall tone of this poem is depressing, unhappy and melancholic to both the reader and to Clarke the one that experienced this sad event that caused her to write this poem.

The second poem that I’m going to be looking at is called ‘East Moor’ also written by Clarke and this poem also describes an incident in the poet’s life. East Moors is a place and Clarke defines them as being ‘two blue islands beyond the city’, they are, Flatholm and Steepholm, which can be seen from Cardiff.

This poem, very similar to ‘Jac Codi Baw’ reports the demolition of East Moors Steelworks and in the poem Clarke explains the effect the demolition has on individuals and the community.

Just like the poem that I studied above the poet deals with Transience, which is the passing of time. In this poem Clarke deals with change and she uses juxtaposition to explore and describe the positive and negative changes to the area after the demolition of the steelworks.

Clarke doesn’t really express her emissions in this poem, but she simply defines the changes this demolition brings to the area.

There is no structure to this poem, it has six verses and they are all free verses, which means that they are verses without any regular pattern. The first stanza is all about change, but the second stanza shows that things are staying the same, which is completely opposite to the first stanza. The third and the sixth stanza deal with the consequences of the change. But the fourth and the fifth stanza outline the time of the demolition.

The poet starts the poem by saying ‘At the end of a bitter April’ Clarke uses the word ‘bitter’, this is an unusual adjective she uses to characterize April, she has noticeably used it on purpose, because by using this adjective Clarke is pointing out that something has went wrong win April. It is unusual to be bitter in April but Clarke is actually trying to reflect the mood of this month and she is showing that something is not right. When Clarke uses ‘bitter’ in her phrase it has two meanings, therefore it’s a pun, and it could mean that April’s cold or the second meaning is that it’s reflecting the mood of this miserable month.

This poem is extremely detailed and has many poetic devices, for example it has a lot of personification. Clarke uses this device on the last line of the first verse, when she says ‘Where the steelworks used to smoke’ the steelworks obviously don’t actually smoke, but when its working smoke comes out of the chimney, so Clarke personifies the steelworks and says that its smoking. Also Clarke says that the steelworks ‘used to smoke’ implying that it was in the past and now they don’t smoke because they are not there any more.

This poem defines a fight between nature and industry ‘The cherries flower at last in Penylan’ this phrase is telling us that Cherrie blossoms finally grow after the steelworks was torn down. They couldn’t grow before because of the polluted air from the steelworks. By saying this Clarke is showing us the advantages of the tarring down the steelworks, it’s a much pleasant and more natural place, she applies the same impression when she says ‘In Roath and Rumney now, washing strung down the narrow gardens will stay clean’ and once again here Clarke is trying to show the advantages of tarring down the steelworks, which now leaves the air unpolluted, and for a change the washing stays clean and there is no sulphur smell in them. At the beginning of this phrase Clarke uses two typical Welsh names ‘Roath and Rumney’ this is to make sure that the reader knows that nit is the Welsh people that are going through this pain.

I really like the phrase ‘the smell of sulphurs almost natural’ I love the way Clarke has worded this sentence and it makes me want to read it again and again. This phrase is a pun, so it has two meanings. The first meaning is that she is trying to tell us that she is used to the smell of sulphur that comes from the steelworks so much that its almost a natural smell to her. The other meaning is that she contrasts between nature and industry.