PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
The PN Review Prize 2017 - Coming Soon
ENGLISH PEN: time to join!
English PEN relies on the support of its members and subscribers. read more
Most Read... Daniel Kaneon Ted Berrigan
(PN Review 169)
David Herdin Conversation with John Ashbery
(PN Review 99)
Henry Kingon Geoffrey Hill's Oraclau/Oracles
(PN Review 199)
Dannie Abse'In Highgate Woods' and Other Poems
(PN Review 209)
Sasha DugdaleJoy
(PN Review 227)
Matías Serra Bradfordinterviews Roger Langley The Long Question of Poetry: A Quiz for R.F. Langley
(PN Review 199)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Gratis Ad 2
Next Issue Celebrating Tom Raworth: a feature supplement Jane Draycott's Michaux Mimi Khalvati's Sonnets Andrew Latimer talks to Alex Wong, anti-ironist John Clegg's gives us a six

This review is taken from PN Review 235, Volume 43 Number 5, May - June 2017.

Cover of Harvest
Toby Martinez de las RivasReparation Sister Mary Agnes, Harvest Guillemot Press, 2016
£8.00

There is something peculiarly fascinating in reading poets who were largely disregarded in their own time, and whose work is re-discovered. One reads against two contexts: the literary culture which originally passed them over, and that in which they subsequently find themselves. On both counts, Sister Mary Agnes is an oddity. Born Pamela Chalkley in 1928, she is a poet with an unusual biography which is hard to disentangle from the substance of her work. In brief, after thirty years as a nun in the contemplative order of Poor Clares in Lynton, Devon (during which time she published three short collections), she fell in love, suffered a breakdown, attempted suicide and finally left the order in 1976. She never returned and remained in relative obscurity until her death in 2014. She seems to have been largely uninfluenced by the dominant literary fashions of her day, despite sharing a publisher with a young Andrew Motion and cultivating friendships with Elizabeth Goudge and Kathleen Raine. Certainly her work is lyrically unadorned, meditative, direct, simple. The only poet with whom she seems to have any kinship is Jack Clemo. The two corresponded and share several features – their grappling with a difficult faith, for example; an intense sensuality; an occasional lack of guile, which in Clemo’s work seems a deliberate baiting of the establishment but in Sister Mary’s comes across more as innocence.

One often has a sense of an unguarded voice groping after a satisfactory image, and unable, quite, to achieve it. For example, in one of the few titled ...
Searching, please wait... animated waiting image