Heron at Port Tablot

Explore the poetic ways in which Clarke represents the relationships between animals and humanity in the poem.

The poem “ Heron at Port Talbot” by Gillian Clarke describes the battle between industrialism and naturalism through out her text. The animal, the Heron, is representing the former and the rest of the town, the latter. Gillian Clarke, who is driving on the motorways, beautifully describes the relations between humanity and animals, as she almost bumps into a bird. This is achieved with the use of Imagery, metaphors, contrasts, and dictions.


The theme of Industrialism v/s Nature is quite prevalent through out the poem. This represents the bondage of animals with humanity. The ‘snow’ is seen to ‘settle’ on the industrial ‘machineries’ and cause it to ‘whiten’ and lead to a metaphorical ‘death.’ The above imageries, though being faded and dull, are all processes that consume a lot of time to occur. This suggests that nature and industry had survived each other since a really long period and knew a lot about each other. Yet their battle seemed to run forever. As the industry is given human traits of having ‘bones’ that will die, it suggests that all human advances aren’t permanent and will fade away. This is similar for all natural beings as well, and thus the theme of the transitory nature of everything makes the relation between man and animal very similar. It envisages that industry, which was an alien entity for mother earth, now had forcefully become a part of it. This battle is silently depicted with the juxtaposing phrases in “ steel winds” “sky stains” “fire chemicals.” Here all natural elements are written with the manmade elements. It suggests that all the natural elements, had compromised/ suffered to accommodate human’s desires of machinery and industry. The humans had occupied all of animal habitat with its ‘ Old workings’ leaving merely any ‘calculable’ space for the animals to reside. Thus, the relation between the two is seen to of discomfort and dislike.


The poet also uses imagery, where a different perspective of the relation is shown. The poet, who is caught in an unanticipated “shock” after almost colliding with the Heron, describes it using slow motion imagery. And in this quick instant Gillian Clarke is able to take look at the Heron’s ‘living eyes’ .The fact that Clarke was making effort to look at a Heron’s eye during an accident that had made her “blood rhythms” falter iterates that she was considerate about the animals well being. For this instant, the “steel”-cold “wind’ didn’t bother the reader; it felt as normal ‘air.’ The constant motion of the falling ‘snow’ seemed interrupted. All of these imageries connote that this ‘intersection’ of man and animal seemed surreal. They were giving each other more importance and acknowledgment as they ‘both’ felt the same ‘pressure’ after going through the same “terrible” incident. Both tried to ‘brake’ themselves from harming the other. This magical and affectionate connection can iterate that humanity though may fancy the technology and industry, but it hasn’t forgotten the deep fitted bond it shares with all species of mother earth.


Her attentive state of mind could also be because of the “beauty” of the Heron that had enthralled her. The beauty may also refer to inner conscience of the Heron that made it turn away from causing harm and crashing into Gillian Clarke. One can say that during evolution, species tend to overlook the well being of other (species), but all share a deep relation that allows them to “change their minds” in such specific situations, as they all belong to the same mother earth. This shows the hidden relations that stays inside humans and animals and makes their relation sound unique.



Diction is also used to portray the relation of the humans with the animal. The pronoun ‘we’ is constantly used to describe the collision. This is a deliberate attempt to show that both Gillian Clarke and the Heron felt like one united entity; together facing the terrible collision. “We might have died”, Clarke says, throwing light how she looked for the best interest of the bird and would’ve been hurt if any harm were to come to the bird. This highlights the affectionate relation between the human and the Heron. The narrator feels a strands of ‘intimacy’ that seems to braid both of them together, while simultaneously also feels ‘shocked’ from this collision. One can say that Gillian Clarke was ignorant about her fondness for the other species. Moreover, it may iterate that this affection was always existent, but was suppressed by societal norms that deemed humans to always be superior to other species. This is love is again seen with words like ‘near’ and ‘almost.’ Moreover, though the interaction expires briefly, it has impacted and moved the narrator, and was permanently stored in the ‘tracks’ of the authors mind. Thus, diction has been a vital tool in highlighting the relation of humans and animals in the poem.


According to me what makes the relationship seem so evident and prominent is the writing style of the Gillian Clarke. Honestly, nature and industry both have played a mammoth role in human life. But, in the poem, as Clarke has used negatives/ unpleasant words to describe nature, its importance to human life appear to deteriorate. Words like ‘Dirty’ ‘stains’ ‘rustings’ ‘erosions’ are catalysts in adding that effect to the poem. They are harsh sounding words that appear to highlight all the negatives that have been brought up by industry. Moreover, nature/animal has been described with words like ‘delicate’ “beauty” “ sand under snow”. These are pleasant and soft sounding words, which make the relationship of man and animal finer than that with industry.


Thus, with the use of Imagery, metaphors, contrasts, and dictions both affectionate and non-affectionate relations of man and animal are highlighted.









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