How does Gillian Clarke make this poem so memorable?


Gillian Clarke’s poem Buzzard is a simple depiction of the skull of a buzzard, a bird of prey. Gillian Clarke has dedicated the first 3 stanzas on the description of the dead skull and the later three to where it’s imagined alive. Clarke makes this poem moving with the use of diction, imagery and lastly structure.


Clarke’s diction is pivotal in making this poem memorable. The pronoun “her” that is used for the bird brings about feelings of fellow being. It connotes that the author has already humanized this dead animal and therefore wishes the readers to connect better with it. Moreover, with words like “gentle” “Delicate.” The poet wants to gather impressions of the fragility of the skull that compelled the author into carrying it with such tenderness. Furthermore, Clarke doesn’t keep on repeating the word “skull” to describe the skull, but rather employs euphemism calling it “gossamers” “white parts.” This replacement allows the perception of the bird’s skull to be free from the negative and unhygienic connotations that linger with the word “bones.” Therefore, Clarke makes the appearance of a dull skull to also seem surcharged with a sense of beauty and a sense of calmness. This makes is memorable. Also, the reference to the bones being “plundered on the hill” give an impression of how precious and valuable the skull seems to be. However, contrary to this the author has also attributed medical jargon to the bird. Words like “sutures” and “cranium” are given to its description. As these words are associated with anatomy, the readers might sense a theme of death being illustrated by the poet. This is further reiterated with words like, “ash” and “fire.” The readers may find the impression of death extremely shocking, as it’s a contrast to the beautiful description of the skull. This may be an attempt to remind the readers that such a beautiful living creature is no more existent. Another element of life and death is explored with the poet compares the dead skull of the animal to its very own egg. Here, in this comparison between death and life, it suggests that though such a majestic bird in no more existent, her offspring would make up for it. The baby buzzard would soon grow up, and inherit the same magnificent qualities of its mother. This thought makes the readers ponder over the beauty of the circle of life, making the poem memorable. Moreover, this is also gives an impression that life and death start and stop from same point. Such knowledge would make the poem seem memorable.


Apart of diction, imagery is also pivotal in making the poem memorable. Though in the former part of the poem, the bird is described to be dead, in the latter half Clarke envisions her to be the predator like it always was. Unlike the description in the former part of the poem where the readers could only visualize the skull in the poet’s hands, in the latter half they come completely visualize how the birds feels and lives. The expression “spinning perimeters” allows the readers to fit themselves in the shoes of the buzzards while its flies over the “farms” to prey. The readers can conjure how this depiction is from the buzzard’s perspective, as to her, the ground underneath her appears to turn. Its act of killing is further elaborated through the expression “feel the lightning flash of heart/ dropping.” Lightening flash is indicative of the violent nature of the bird as it plunges down to hunt. This side of the bird’s personality is not discussed earlier on. Moreover, the enjambment in “hearts/dropping” that makes a swift flow of the poem into the other line mirrors the swiftness and elegance with which the bird dives. This makes is clear that the Buzzard must work hard and kill others for survival. This is a contrast to how other “scavengers” who cowardly “feed” on death, and therefore highlights the power of Buzzard. Such a description makes the perception of the buzzard fearless and courageous, which contributes in making the poem memorable.

The structure of the poem is also pivotal in attaining a memorable outlook from the poem. The poem is distributed into quatrains, where each having numerous enjambments (eye /dry, birds/ will) This technique may mirror the freedom of the bird when it flies in the sky in different direction. I may contrast it to the freedom that is available to man in the current society, and therefore find this depiction and therefore the poem memorable. Moreover, the perfect uniform length of lines may suggest the uniformity in the birds flight. Alternatively in the first stanza; there are no verbs, leaving the sentences incomplete. This may allow readers to contemplate over the skull, and may perceive to be something special. Another element of structure is seen that the first stanza of the poem has been left un-end-stopped. One may believe that this is because the poet is extremely elated and excited on discovering his skull and therefore can retrain her emotions in one stanza. This is unlike how the second stanza is end-stopped. That may be because the idea of death is being discussed and therefore as Clarke isn’t comfortable with that topic, is end-stopping the stanza. This allows the readers to better understand the poem and feelings of Clarke during this moment.