Gillian Clarke was born on 8 June 1937 in Cardiff. She was brought up in Cardiff and Penarth, though for part of the Second World War she was in Pembrokeshire. She lived in Barry for a few years at a house called "Flatholme" on The Parade. Although her parents were Welsh speakers, she was brought up speaking only English and learnt to speak Welsh as an adult – partly as a form of rebellion. She graduated in English from Cardiff University.
After university Clarke spent a year working for the BBC in London. She then returned to Cardiff, where she married and had a daughter, Catrin, about whom she has written a poem of the same name, and two sons. She worked as an English teacher, first at the Reardon-Smith Nautical College and later at Newport College of Art.
In the mid-1980s she moved to rural Ceredigion, West Wales, with her second husband, after which time she spent some years as a creative writing tutor at the University of Glamorgan. In 1990 she was a co-founder of Tŷ Newydd, a writers' centre in North Wales.
Her poetry is studied by GCSE and A Level students throughout Britain. A considerable number of her poems are used in the GCSE AQA Anthology. She has given poetry readings and lectures in Europe and the United States, and her work has been translated into ten languages. Some of her English poems have been translated into Chinese by Peter Jingcheng Xu and published in the journal Foreign Literature and Art (Issue 6, December 2016).
Clarke has published numerous collections of poetry for adults and children (see below), as well as dramatic commissions and numerous articles in a wide range of publications. She is a former editor of The Anglo-Welsh Review (1975–84) and the current president of Tŷ Newydd. Several of her books have received a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. In 1999 Gillian Clarke received the Glyndŵr Award for an "Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in Wales" during the Machynlleth Festival. She was on the judging panel for the 2008 Manchester Poetry Prize. Clarke reads her poetry for teenagers who are taking their English GCSE school exams. She is part of the GCSE Poetry Live team that also includes John Agard, Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy, Imtiaz Dharker, Moniza Alvi, Grace Nichols, Daljit Nagra and Choman Hardi.
In 2008 Gillian Clarke became the third National Poet of Wales. In 2010 she was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry and became the second Welsh person to receive the honour. In 2011 she was made a member of the Gorsedd of Bards. In 2012 she received the Wilfred Owen Association Poetry award. The book Ice ice baby was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2012.
- Anglo-Welsh poetry
- Anthologise Annual Competition for School
In 2011 Clarke was a member of the first ever judging panel for a new schools poetry competition named Anthologise, spearheaded by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. School students aged 11–18 from around the UK were invited to create and submit their own anthologies of published poetry. The first ever winners of Anthologise were the sixth-form pupils of Monkton Combe School, Bath, with their anthology titled The Poetry of Earth is Never Dead.
- Snow on the Mountain. (Christopher Davies), 1971
- The Sundial. (Gomer Press / Gwasg Gomer), 1978. ISBN 0-85088-540-X
- Letter From a Far Country. (Carcanet Press), 1982
- Selected Poems. (Carcanet Press), 1985 ISBN 0-85635-594-1
- Letting in the Rumour. (Carcanet Press), 1989 ISBN 0-85635-757-X
- The King of Britain's Daughter. (Carcanet Press), 1993. ISBN 1-85754-031-X
- Collected Poems. (Carcanet Press), 1997. ISBN 1-85754-335-1
- Five Fields. (Carcanet Press), 1998.ISBN 1-85754-401-3
- The Animal Wall. Illustrated, for children. (Gomer Press / Gwasg Gomer) 1999 ISBN 1-85902-654-0
- Nine Green Gardens. (Gomer Press / Gwasg Gomer), 2000. ISBN 1-85902-805-5
- Owain Glyndŵr. (National Library of Wales), 2000. ISBN 1-86225-015-4
- Making the Beds for the Dead (Carcanet Press) April 2004 ISBN 1-85754-737-3
- At the Source (Carcanet Press) May 2008. ISBN 978-1-85754-986-7
- A Recipe for Water (Carcanet Press) April 2009. ISBN 978-1-85754-988-1
- Ice (Carcanet Press October 2012). ISBN 978-1-847771-99-5
- Carcanet Press – Gillian Clarke
- "Gillian Clarke". bbc.co.uk. 15 December 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
- Welsh Academi - National Poet of Wales
- "Queen's Gold Medal for Welch poet Gilian Clarke". ABC. 24 December 2010. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
- "Gorsedd honour for Gillian Clarke and Nigel Owens". BBC. 8 June 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- "Wilfred Owen Association Award". 21 March 2012. Archived from the original on 15 August 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
- Alison Flood (23 October 2012). "TS Eliot prize for poetry announces 'fresh, bold' shortlist". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Anthologise[permanent dead link]
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- Official website
- Gillian Clarke at British Council: Literature
- Profile at Poetry Archive with poems written and audio
- "The poet talks about her prose collection At the Source", BBC Woman's Hour, 13 May 2008 (audio, 10 mins)
- "Making Beds for the Dead", BBC Woman's Hour, 8 April 2004 (audio, 10 mins)
- Carcanet Press
- Review of Gillian Clarke in the Guardian
- Gillian Clarke poetry workshop in the Guardian
- Gillian Clarke poetry translated into Chinese in Foreign Literature and Art
- Gillian Clarke at Library of Congress Authorities, with 20 catalogue records