Words and photo by Dave Barry
Though now in her nineties, a Scarborough poet is not slowing down.
Joyce Bell, 93, has spent the last year working with local author and editor Felix Hodcroft, organising her first full collection of work, Gloriously Alive.
Some of Joyce’s poems focus on her fascinating life.
Born in a poor area of Sunderland, she grew up during depression and wartime.
She trained as an artist and a teacher and worked abroad for many years.
Back in Britain, Joyce was an energetic and committed vicar’s wife.
Widowed and re-settled from Gloucestershire to Scarborough, she has for the last decade been a mainstay of the town’s art, poetry and performance scene.
Some of Joyce’s poems reflect her fascination with varying religious and political perspectives and her joy in the natural world.
“Joyce looks at things in a very distinctive way,” says Felix. “Her poetry bears the weight of 90 years’ experience but also the lightness of someone much younger.
“Though they may at first seem straightforward, her poems are sophisticated and oftenpowerful and surprising”.
Gloriously Alive will be launched with a free event, open to all, at the Sitwell library in Woodend, from 6-8pm on Friday 20 October.
There will be readings and the book will be on sale at a discounted price of £6. Refreshments will be served.
Plague of Rats
Was it really me
Who sat on the very edge of a string bed
Attempting to focus on teaching
A lively, intelligent group
Of illiterate women
In a village in India
To read and write,
While I could hear the rats
Playing on the bed behind me?
Yes. DDT had killed the mosquitoes.
Only a few survived.
Then the birds died when they ate the insects.
Then the cats died when they ate the birds.
Then there were no cats left to eat the rats
So they lived and multiplied
To play on the bed behind me.
Orange is a colour
You taste rather than see
Fruity and sweet and
Orange flowers sing
You hear their flamboyance
Hitting the high notes in
Harvest moon rises
Huge and orange
Filling the sky in wild
Wear orange if you dare – it will
Dazzle the eyeballs till all else is dimmed
Into drab insignificance by your
The Eye of a Thrush
This morning I looked
Into the eye of a thrush –
Our paths crossed on the cliff path.
I do not know how long we looked at each other
In astonishment till
There was an emptiness where he had been.
Light and colour
Rushed in to take his place
Cow parsley threw heads high into the air
Buttercups vibrated with gold
Shadows flirted among tree trunks
Under cascades of green light.
The earth under my feet pulsed with life.
A bee sucked nectar from a lady’s slipper.