Nonagenarian poet publishes first book

Joyce Bell has a great view from her Esplanade flat

Joyce Bell has a great view from her Esplanade flat

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.