Q How does Gillian Clarke succeed in making the poem journey a mysterious one for the readers?

The poem, ‘Journey’ has been composed by the Welsh poet Gillian Clarke. Clarke talks about venturing into the oblivion, the daily chore of an individual, and experiencing different phases of life. Her views about the unpredictability of future engulfs the readers into further unraveling different aspects of the poem. Clarke uses metaphors, diction, structure, imagery and other rhetorical devices to make the poem all the more mysterious for the readers.

Clarke efficaciously portrays her ideas through the peculiar use of diction throughout the poem. Clarke makes the readers ponder from the very beginning, as she is “concerned”, while the readers are not aware of the true cause of her apprehension. The title of the poem clearly indicates how Clarke will talk about a ‘Journey’ in this poem, while she herself is not sure of what her destiny beholds for her, as she drives into ‘oblivion’. Moreover, she mentions barren land on either sides of the ‘road’ she is ‘travelling’ upon, amplifying the mysteriousness of the moment. Clarke also begins the poem with a very conversational tone, almost delivering it as an anecdote by referring to recurring events throughout the poem. A distinctive change in language is evident between the first and the second stanza. Clarke floods the first stanza with negative diction and dark imagery with the usage of words like “oblivion”, “black”, “darkness”, and “sleeping”. This is in direct contrast to the second stanza as the use of salubrious imagery like “cream”, “morning”, “grass”, and “fungoid” add a sense of liveliness to the text. This may indicate that presently, a host of problems may make life seem as unendurable, but the with time, the forces of nature will set it all right in the future.

The readers are perplexed by the excessive use of visual imagery in the second stanza, as the poet claims that “there is nothing” on her “either sides”, and also by the fact that Clarke is attempting to describe the “oblivion”. The readers are bound by the readers to mysteriously ponder about the place the poet has reached, as she drives out of “darkness” into the “morning”. Moreover, the antithetical reference of “black” and “light” adds on to the puzzling enigma that life serves us. The poet driving out of dark could implicate one being strong and resiliently handling oneself during their harsh times in life. The motif of hope is highlighted here, as that is what would get one out of their grievous times, allowing them to finally witness the “morning”, i.e. the fresh beginning of a euphoric chapter in their life. Clarke does not fail in leaving the readers hanging, as by ending the second stanza by the words like “dark” and “sterility”, following the excessive use of life imagery, subsequently adding uncertainty to the poem.

The concluding line of the first stanza displays the unforeseeable future and how every single person has a different outlook towards life, as some “might be sleeping” compared to those who are “alive”. The verb “sleeping” has actually been used as a noun here, substituting death. These references show the magnitude of the ambiguity this world of ours beholds. Clarke claims that she could “hear the darkness drip”, insinuating a looming danger she is unaware about. She seems to be connected with the “other world”, suggesting the fact that the world is oblivious to innumerous things that exist and are destined to occur, including the approaching danger, thereby further adding mystery to this ‘Journey’ of ours. The use of symbolism adds a sense of mystery to the poem as the reference to the “cat” is often linked to something mysterious. The “green invitation” further mystifies the poem as the green is frequently used as a symbol of something deceptive and unpredictable, while the readers are bound to think about the notion of this “invitation”. These consecutive connotations foreshadow the unpredictability of the journey that one paves through their entire life and how one needs to embrace the mystery revealed and different stages of life.

Clarke also refers to the readers as “miners”, who are possibly in quest for something that would add meaning to their future and make their life yet more predictable. This metaphor clearly helps the readers impersonate the miners, while the readers themselves are persistently looking for ‘something’ that could make their lives more predictable. Clarke implies a hint of mystery as it is clear, that this ‘something’ is different for each person, in her case a “mineral relationship in the dark”. This suggests how she wishes to be guided by a torchbearer that could lead her through this erratic journey of life, for a life free of any uncertainties. Furthermore, the use of the simile in the line “submit(s) like a blind and folded baby” envisages how we humans have no control over our destiny, and this helplessness is then compared to that of a baby. The baby is described as “blind and folded”, implying the newborn infant is totally unaware of what it’s going to witness one it opens its eyes, just like we adults are completely unaware of the future. From letting the mystery of lives from nagging us, all we have to do is succumb to our fates, just like the baby submits itself.

Personally, I believe that Clarke brings the poem to a full circle when she contrasts various aspects of life in order to give a rather more vibrant picture of the ordinary yet more mysterious life of an individual. The first stanza has a little positivity while is full of ‘dark’ imagery while the second stanza consists of more vibrant and lively perspective of life. This suggests how she unravels the true sense of a Chinese symbol for life, a ying-yang. This gives a very different yet intriguing outlook to this poem. This clearly portrays how there are various phases of life, not known to any individual as Clarke describes in the poem. The description of the surroundings yet makes the readers brainstorm how even when everything is present right here, we are still unaware of what lies beyond this very moment. Everyone experiences this ache of saudade when they extrapolate what lies in future, as are only met by darkness and feel lost.

Hence, Clarke succeeds in making the poem a mysterious one through the usage of metaphors, similes, diction, structure, imagery and other rhetorical devices.


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