How do the phrases in Gillian Clarke's "Lament" make it a memorable poem?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In "Lament" by Welsh poet Gillian Clarke, the phrases in the poem make it memorable because the imagery the words create have an enormous impact on the reader, making each line noteworthy and memorable.

The word "lament" means "an expression of grief or sorrow," and you will note that each line presented begins with the word "For." Clarke's poem is a lament, an expression of sorrow, "for" each image described. The poem is based on pictures taken during theĀ Gulf War, in Kuwait and Afghanistan; Clarke's stunning and frightening descriptions bring the images of war into the mind and experience of the reader.

One compelling line refers to sea water with a "mortal stain."

For the ocean's lap with its mortal stain...

This seems to clearly refer to blood on the water, especially with the use of the word "mortal." On the other hand, it has been suggested that it refers to the burning of oil on the water, as the flames reflect the color of the fire.

The next line needs little commentary; the mental picture clearly speaks to the reader of the horrors of war:

For the soldier in his uniform of fire...

The following line describes the burning on the ground, which creates so much smoke that it blots out the sun in the sky because the smoke is so thick...

For the burnt earth and the sun put out...

Gillian Clarke's poem, "Lament" is a sorrowful recounting of the scenes of war, shown in words that reflect war's loss and destruction.