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John Lewis honoured with poem by Gillian Clarke


The National Poet of Wales has written a new poem, 'Home', for display in the Cardiff branch, marking its third anniversary

Write your own poem inspired by the department store here

Her award-winning poetry has touched on everything from winter to Welsh legend, but now National poet of Wales Gillian Clarke has found a more prosaic muse: John Lewis.

Clarke's poem "Home", written to mark the third anniversary of John Lewis's Cardiff branch, is being displayed in the department store's window, against a backdrop of homewares. Imagining a return home on a dark evening, the poem's protagonist finds the room "dreaming, / in a doze at the end of the day", as "across the evening city home is waking".

Clarke, who was made National Poet of Wales in 2008 and won the Queen's Gold Medal for poetry in 2010, said the display was her idea, after she was unable to work with John Lewis on National Poetry Day. "I said I've had a really lovely idea for you instead – I'd love to see, when I'm sitting having a coffee at John Lewis in Cardiff, instead of looking at abstract glass, to see a poem there," said the author, who was born in Cardiff.

John Lewis reacted enthusiastically, and Clarke started writing. "My aim was not to advertise stuff. It is absolutely not the spirit of what I'm doing to make people feel they want stuff, or to feel bad about not having it," she said. "I thought the idea would be a room – not a castle or a mansion, I felt that a room was as inclusive as I could be, despite the fact I'm very aware of people sleeping in the street … The room has been dozing away, the sun turning round its walls, then it's evening and suddenly you startle it with an electric light. I thought everyone can have a chair, a book, probably a lamp."

Clarke is hopeful that the initiative might be expanded to other John Lewis stores across the UK, with poems from, say, Carol Ann Duffy displayed in the Manchester branch, or Liz Lochhead in Glasgow. "I'm thrilled they've done it," she said. "Printing that poem and paying me to do it is cheap, so they could do it quite easily in every big store in the country, and I will talk to them about that."

Home by Gillian Clarke

Evening, home after hours away,
I catch my room out, dreaming,
in a doze at the end of the day,
surprised by blue dusk at the window,
white cups and dishes gleaming,
my chair, my rug, electricity's glow.

This room and I want music, lamplight,
a good book, fresh tea steaming.
Across the evening city home is waking,
in semis, terraced streets, estates,
in quiet suburbs, silence breaking
with TV, kettles, radio,

as one by one the windows light
till every tower-block's an Advent calendar,
countdown to winter and the longest night.

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