Category Archives: Poets – known and new

Sophie Agrell: a bright new talent

One of the pleasures and privileges of being an older person is that of having the time to notice talent in younger people and the patience to foster it. Sophie Agrell and I have had a running joke for a couple of years that she is Mouse, hiding away in her writer’s mousehole, and I am Cheese, enticing her out.

When she first very tentatively showed me one of her poems in 2010 I recognised her talent, thereafter nudging her, gently but persistently, into sending her work out into the wider world, first of all in the form of allowing me to publish her on my blogs.

She was successful in her first submission, to a UK national poetry competition. “Touching Ephemera: Rome, April 2009″ made the “Highly Commended” slot in the Poetry Anthology 2011 published by United Press Ltd. This was soon followed by United Press Ltd including that same poem in their “Uplifting Moments” anthology, published early in 2012.

Not long after that, the Editors at United Press Ltd asked her to submit a number of her poems for an anthology called Ten of the Best. As a result, twelve of Sophie’s poems now feature in this ‘Showcase of Poetry’, published in May 2012, offering through the work of ten new poets “….certain proof that poetry has the potential to cut straight to the heart of life.

Do check out the book.

In the meantime, here are two of her poems from that anthology,  very contrasting in theme, mood and tone, showing Sophie’s range as a poet. Enjoy!

In Sri Lankan national dress

In Sri Lankan national dress

Sophie, photo by Anne Whitaker

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My paradise island

Let me tell you about my country,

My paradise island, my Serendip,

Where every memory is filled with laughter,

With spices and sunlight, the mango sweetness of happiness,

Where tropical beauty splashes in technicolour

In every hedge, on every street,

Where elephants stroll through chaos –

Traffic, trishaws, wandering bullocks

And traffic policemen despairingly waving their pristine gloves –

Where gentle, ever-smiling people offer lotus flowers

To serene, impassive Buddhas.

 

Let me tell you about my country,

My paradise island, my Serendip,

Where thousands live bewildered behind wire

With loss beyond losing everything.

Where white vans steal young men at night,

Where in dusty streets war-maimed beggars sit,

Where questions are answered with bullets, with threats,

Where no one knows whom to trust,

What is safe to say and where,

And smiling murderers offer lotus flowers

To serene, impassive Buddhas.

 

O let me tell you about my country,

My paradise island, my Serendip.

SIA 16 iii 2010

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How do I explain it?

How do I explain it,

This peace that lures me

Into sleep

To dream of gentle dragons,

That fills my heart with stillness

So words vanish,

And I lie, tranquil,

Listening to your breath

Beneath my ear,

The clattering rustle of turning pages,

In entire contentment?

How do I account

For this absence of all restlessness,

All considering,

All planning,

All looking beyond this moment?

 

I only know

There is only now,

This breath,

This breadth of time,

And you and I and love

Within it.

SIA 14 xi 2011

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photo by Anne Whitaker

(sophie_agrell@hotmail.com)

Sophie grew up in Kent, UK,  in a family whose connections spread from Sri Lanka, Sweden and Scotland throughout the world. She read Ancient and Modern History at Oxford, eventually settling in Scotland where she works as a proof reader. She lives with her two dogs in a North Lanarkshire village. Sophie describes herself as “…. an escaped medievalist who watches the world, delights in its beauty, and grows roses…..”

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600 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Sophie Agrell 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Guest Slot: ” The woods are lovely, dark and deep….” Sophie Agrell, poet.

Lines of poetry are permanently lodged in my head. They take shape magically from the inner mist, just when I need them. A recurring line in my later years is from that beautiful, wistful Robert Frost poem “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” (1923): ‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep……’

I have been thinking about woods more than usual in the last couple of weeks. Here in Scotland there have been some recent nights of squally storms: vulnerable trees in my beloved local park have been torn down. There are broken twigs and branches littered over nearby streets. UK – wide protests are gathering momentum as we discover that swathes of our precious woodlands are being sold off to private developers. Locked gates are already appearing round some local woods in England, generating fury amongst nearby residents.

My recent encounter with my friend and poet Sophie Agrell was therefore most timeous! She too is a tree and woods lover. She gave me a poem, newly written, about woods.

The Park at Knole, Sevenoaks, Kent

The Park at Knole, Sevenoaks, Kent

Sophie writes: Knole is a huge seventeenth-century mansion, now owned by the National Trust, set in a 1000-acre medieval deer park in Sevenoaks in Kent. It was the childhood home of Vita Sackville-West and forms the setting for Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.

I grew up in Sevenoaks. Knole, with its gentle, bracken-covered slopes and woods, unchanged in many ways for 400 years, is my favourite place.

I took my first steps in a sheltered valley under an oak tree and wept when the woods, especially the ancient stands of beech, were ravaged by the 1987 hurricane. I know every path and tree, in every season, as it was and as it is. Sometimes when I think of Knole past and present, spring and autumn merge in beauty. Here is the poem I recently gave to Anne:

Knole

At night I walk in sunlight

Through wind-felled beechwoods yet upright.

My booted feet kick and scamper

In drifts of russet leaves, ever crisp.

I inhale autumn,

Tinged with smoke, wet deer and damp,

And look up at pale, translucent green,

A spring cathedral, roofed with living glass.

25 i 2011

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Sophie Agrell 

Sophie Agrell

(sophie_agrell@hotmail.com)

Sophie describes herself as “…. an escaped medievalist who watches the world, delights in its beauty, and grows roses…..”

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400 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Sophie Agrell 2011
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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“Sisterectomy”: a new poem from Scottish poet Carole Bone

In the late 1990s Carole Bone turned up in my daytime astrology class: red hair, big eyes, bright mind, very eager to learn, fast talker, very hard to keep her quiet. Irrepressible. A great student to teach. Ten years on, and I was at last emerging  from my 2001-8 retreat. Carole had just left my house, staggering under the weight of a bag full of poetry books…. T.S.Eliot, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Dylan Thomas, Archy and Mehitabel, e e cummings, Anne Stevenson, Tom Leonard, Liz Lochhead.….she had kept in touch throughout my time out, sending messages of support, sending me her poems to read. She is a born writer. I remember thinking that day  “She’ll be getting published before long.”

Here is her second published poem,“Sisterectomy”, which appeared in May 2010 in the Poetry Anthology 2010 published by United Press Ltd.

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Sisterectomy

I’ve had a sisterectomy
There’s no wound
or scar to show

No empty sleeve
to neatly fold and pin
in badge of loss

Elusive sibling ache
I carry it somewhere still
In head, in heart or gut

No scale can weigh its pain
No gauge can measure
The depth of its careless cut

Unhealed sorrow
flows through blood
that once ran thick

Its devastation hidden
In fractured bonds
Of severed root and tribe

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(Carole’s submission for the Poetry Anthology 2011 has been shortlisted. Our fingers are crossed, Carole!)

Carole Bone
Carole Bone

(carolebone@hotmail.co.uk)

Carole’s Biog : “…. mother of two magic boys – wife for thirty three years to a Capricorn who is without doubt my rock.  Would be astrologer; this subject has kept me (relatively) sane by helping me to understand the contradictory pulls existing in my nature between the home-loving dreamer and the restless seeker after knowledge. And – a shy Virgo Rising…

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ps….I am delighted to report that ‘Lilith and the Devil’ – the first of Carole’s poems to be published on “Writing from the Twelfth House” in February 2010, was re-published on 16.3.10 on the Write Anything site as part of a fine reflective piece by Carole, offering advice to would-be poets. To read it, and some more comments on Carole’s work, check out

http://writeanything.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/lillith-and-the-devil/

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350 words copyright Carole Bone/ Anne Whitaker 2010

Guest Slot: a new Scottish poet on the block….Carole Bone

In the late 1990s Carole Bone turned up in my daytime astrology class: red hair, big eyes, bright mind, very eager to learn, fast talker, very hard to keep her quiet. Irrepressible. A great student to teach. Ten years on, and I was at last emerging  from my 2001-8 retreat. Carole had just left my house, staggering under the weight of a bag full of poetry books…. T.S.Eliot, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Dylan Thomas, Archy and Mehitabel, e e cummings, Anne Stevenson, Tom Leonard, Liz Lochead.….she had kept in touch throughout my time out, sending messages of support, sending me her poems to read. She is a born writer. I remember thinking that day  “She’ll be getting published before long.”

Here is her first published poem.

Lilith and the Devil

My thoughts are dark like Lilith’s night
My dreams like Vincent’s crows in flight
Despair my enemy – my comrade
Are shadows real or just charade

The Devil grins and winks at me
Come dance with me and you will see
Dance with the Devil quick quick slow
Better the Devil that you know

Like an old friend he stands by me
And promises to set me free
Cut my bonds and free my soul
Just pay the ferryman his toll

Pandora’s box of dark delights
Tempt me in the Moon dark nights
Delicious pain won’t let me go
It comforts and torments me so

And when at last released to light
Still feel the teasing sultry night
Call me like a secret love
Iron hand in velvet glove

The Devil laughs and speaks to me
Of all these things to help me see
That angels know these things I know
For as above is so below

(From Wiki: Lilith (Hebrew: ליליתLīlīt; Arabic: ليليثLīlīṯ) is a female Mesopotamian storm demon associated with wind and was thought to be a bearer of disease, illness, and death. The figure of Lilith first appeared in a class of wind and storm demons or spirits as Lilitu, in Sumer, circa 4000 BC. Many scholars place the origin of the phonetic name “Lilith” at somewhere around 700 BC despite post-dating even to the time of Moses.[1] Lilith appears as a night demon in Jewish lore and as a screech owl in Isaiah 34:14 in the King James version of the Bible. In later folklore, “Lilith” is the name for Adam‘s first wife.)

“Lilith and the Devil” was first published in The Mountain Astrologer magazine (USA) – Issue No. 140, Aug/Sept 2008

(Carole’s next poem to be published is “Sisterectomy” – in the Poetry Anthology 2010 published by United Press Ltd – not due out till Spring 2010)

Carole Bone

Carole Bone

carolebone@hotmail.co.uk

Carole’s Biog : …. mother of two magic boys – wife for thirty three years to a Capricorn who is without doubt my rock.  Would be astrologer; this subject has kept me (relatively) sane by helping me to understand the contradictory pulls existing in my nature between the home-loving dreamer and the restless seeker after knowledge. And – a shy Virgo Rising….

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ps….I am delighted to report that ‘Lilith and the Devil’ was re-published on 16.3.10 on the Write Anything site as part of a fine reflective piece by Carole, offering advice to would-be poets. To read it, and some more comments on Carole’s work, check out

http://writeanything.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/lillith-and-the-devil/

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550 words copyright Carole Bone/ Anne Whitaker 2010
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page