‘Driving to the Hospital’ by Kate Clanchy is a beautiful poem about the journey by car. The poetic persona and her beloved are heading for the hospital. The mental happenings of the persona, who seems to be the poet herself, during the journey are the main subject matter of the poem. The speaker revisits the past. She visualizes how her beloved reacted when they were driving to his brother’s place. The poet feels rejuvenated by the thought as it still has the same freshness as the morning dew on a tender blade of grass.
‘Driving to the Hospital’ by Kate Clanchy directly presents the scene in which the poet and her beloved are on the way to the hospital. Her partner is driving the car and the poet is sitting comfortably beside him. They are running out of petrol that’s why the poet tells him to freewheel after getting to the hill. He likes the idea and starts their early morning journey. He takes the car out of the driveway and pats her knee as a gesture of admiration. This simple patting takes her to the past when he patted the poet exactly the same way. Then they were beginning the journey of the sweet love-life together. The idea gives the poet a sense of fulfillment and she wonders, “why my heart leapt and leapt.” This line makes it clear that the scene is still fresh in her memory.
You can read the full poem here.
‘Driving to the Hospital’ by Kate Clanchy contains a total of 21 lines. The lines are short and packed with rhythmic energy. The first person perspective of the poem gives it the quality of a lyric. The silent listener is present in the poem and the poet converses with him. It gives the poem the quality of a dramatic monologue. There isn’t any specific rhyme scheme in the poem. However, the poet makes use of a few regular rhymes in the poem. Likewise, “freewheel” and “hill” and “barely”, “gently”, and exactly” rhyme together. The whole poem is in free verse.
There is a regularity in the line lengths of the poem. There is an average of 6 syllables in each line of the poem. The poet uses the anapestic meter and the iambic meter for maintaining the metrical flow of the poem. However, the overall poem is composed of iambic trimeter and anapestic dimeter alternatively.
‘Driving to the Hospital’ by Kate Clanchy makes use of enjambment as a major literary device in the poem. But, there are some important poetic devices too in the poem. Likewise, the poet uses alliteration in “we were” and “when we”. The “w” gets repeated for creating a rhythm in the poem. That’s why those phrases also come under the literary device called consonance. There is a personification in the line, “the city/ was nursing its quiet”. Like a mother the city nurses the quiet hours at dawn. So, here the poet also personifies the “quiet” and she imagines it to be the baby of the “city”.
Apart from that, the poet uses onomatopoeia in “a crunch on the gravel.” The poet uses leaped twice in the last line of the poem. It is the use of palilogy. The poet personifies her heart and invests the idea of leaping into it. However, by using the word heart, the poet associates it with herself. That’s why it becomes an example of synecdoche.
We were low on petrol
a crunch on the gravel.
‘Driving to the Hospital’ by Kate Clanchy introduces the main scene in the first few lines of the poem. The incident is not happening in the present. It is a recollection of the hours of togetherness. From the lines of the poem, it seems that the poet and her partner have been in a relationship for a long time. Some episodes of her past give happiness to the poet from within. That’s why she is recollecting one or two of those episodes in this poem.
The poet and her beloved were on the way to the hospital at dawn. The early hours of the day bring a sense of freshness to the poem. It reflects how vibrant the memory of the poet is. However, the poet told her partner to freewheel when they would reach the hill as they were running out of petrol. The poet had frequently come up with such suggestions while they drove together. The metaphorical use of the car journey brings out a deeper meaning in the poem. It suggests that in their relationship the poet always took the right decision in critical situations. And they both reaped the fruit together. It feels like a collective victory over the impediments that occasionally appear in a relationship.
You smiled kindly and
when we were courting,
In the next few lines, the poet talks about her partner. The person driving the car was pleased by the decision the poet took at that moment. He welcomed her idea with a gentle smile and eased the clutch gently. The lines of this section, a sense of trust between the souls sitting side by side in the car. This was not the only journey in which they were together. They built trust, the most precious element of any relationship, throughout the years they lived together. There is no questioning about the decision one takes. The sense of admiration and the essence of solace are only there in their hearts.
In the last few lines, the poet talks about the “gesture” that her partner used when they were courting. This little gesture, precious in the poet’s memory, takes her another few years in her memory. In the upcoming lines, the poet focuses on this early memory of their relationship.
remember, on the way
why my heart leapt and leapt.
In the last few lines of the poem, Kate Clanchy presents another scene from the canvas of her memory. She can clearly see and feel the moment in the present moment. It is one of the precious memories that a person safely stores in her mind’s closet to look back again in the future. The poet symbolically takes it out and clears the dust and shows it to her partner. It was the moment that she adores in the present moment and she will be doing so in the future too.
The poet can hear her partner’s voice saying, “I like/ driving with my baby”. The innocence of the scene captures the preliminary emotions when the poet was just stepping towards a new horizon, called love. Then her heart leaped up like a little kid full of enthusiasm. The poet can feel the sensation still vibrant in her memory.
About Kate Clanchy
‘Driving to the Hospital’ by Kate Clanchy first appeared in the poetry collection “Newborn” (2004). It also appears in her “Selected Poems” book. Kate Clanchy was born in 1965 in Glasgow, Scotland. She is a writer and teacher. Kate received the Orwell Prize for Political Writing in 2020 for her book, “Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me” published in 2019. However, she is a versatile writer, and innovatively captures several themes in her works.
‘Driving to the Hospital’ by Kate Clanchy beautifully captures the essence of love. Like her poem ‘Love’, this poem also reflects the sweet memories of a relationship that give one a sense of relief and happiness. However, the following poems are relevant to the theme of Kate’s lyric.
- Journey by Gillian Clarke – In this poem, Gillian Clarke presents a similar theme of a couple going on a trip by car.
- You Last Drive by Thomas Hardy – Here, the poet Thomas Hardy talks about the poet’s beloved wife’s last drive.
- Journey by Edna St. Vincent Millay – In this poem, Edna St. Vincent Millay talks about the journey of life.
- The Errigal Road by John Montague – The poet John Montague by using Irish mythology talks about relationships as a whole in this poem.