Gillian Clarke Responses

  1. Is the gothic atmosphere in the poem created by you intended?
  2. What exactly is the context to this poem? It doesn’t seem to describe one event.


  1. Oh dear! You have imposed your own notion of a ‘gothic atmosphere’ on the poem. I assume this comes from movies and comic books, but is not supported by a single word of the poem.
  2. First read the title, ‘Pipistrelle’. Google it, and any other word you don’t understand. The pipistrelle is the smallest breed of bat found in Britain, common in many countries.

Read the poem with care:

Verse 1: The scene is set. Bats fly on warm evenings, feeding on insects in the air.

Note ‘dusk’, ‘evening’, ‘day cools on the house-walls’.

Metaphors: dusk ‘unwinds its spool’; Think of the speed of the tiny creatures flying in circles and loops too fast to see properly yet movement is discerned.

Note ‘illegible’; ‘the screen of evening’ is the sky. ‘Subliminal’: their cries are too high for the human ear

Verse 2: metaphors: ‘freehand’; ‘page’.

What are ‘we’ doing? Read ‘lines 3-5

Verse 3: to answer the second part of question 2, you are right, a remembered scene is brought in. A bat expert once showed me a dead pipistrelle bat, beautiful, tiny, fragile.

Note metaphors for the delicate skin of its wings: bible-paper; a rose pressed between the pages of a book, the words showing through.


It is a simple poem about the delight in sitting out on a warm evening when the bats were flying.





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