In “Heron at Port Talbot,” by Gillian Clarke, the speaker has a “near collision” with a heron, an encounter that represents the clash between nature and industry but that also illustrates the bond between humans and animals. The speaker is a creature of the industrialized world, the world that intrudes...
In “Heron at Port Talbot,” by Gillian Clarke, the speaker has a “near collision” with a heron, an encounter that represents the clash between nature and industry but that also illustrates the bond between humans and animals. The speaker is a creature of the industrialized world, the world that intrudes upon nature and attempts to overpower it. The encounter with the heron makes the speaker aware of the fact that humans and animals share the same life force and are thus intimately connected. The speaker recognizes the bird’s strength and respects the bird’s power and vision. The speaker also recognizes that the power of nature surpasses anything humans can create.
To write an essay that discusses the significance of the encounter with the heron, I suggest focusing on the poet’s use of language and imagery. Pay particular attention to the words Clarke uses to link the heron’s experience with the speaker’s. The pronoun “we,” for example, suggests the commonality between human and animal, creatures that, in a superficial sense, belong to different worlds. The speaker also uses the words “flight” and “bank” to describe the movement of the speaker’s car as well as the heron. This, too, conveys the bond the speaker feels with the bird. It also shows that the speaker recognizes that they are sharing the experience because they are experiencing similar emotions.
The reference to the bird’s “living eye” and the reference to his “change of mind” convey the idea that the speaker sees beyond the superficial idea of an encounter with nature and recognizes something deeper. Look closely at the imagery of life and death within the poem. The speaker appears to link industry with dead machinery and nature with life and awareness. Thus, the encounter reveals a clash between worlds but also reveals the bond between human and animal. The speaker recognizes that as a symbol of the human, industrialized world, she (or he) intruded on the heron as much as the heron intruded on her. Both were “shocked" by the near encounter. Thus, the speaker recognizes the heron as a living creature with will—one who is just as aware of the life within the human as the human is aware of the life within the bird.