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This article is taken from PN Review 61, Volume 14 Number 5, May - June 1988.

The Poetry of E.J. Scovell Jem Poster

The daughter of a clergyman, E.J. Scovell was born in 1907 in Sharrow, a suburb of Sheffield. Educated initially by governesses and subsequently, like the Brontë sisters before her, at Casterton School in Westmorland, she went to Somerville College as a scholar in 1926. Her interest in poetry had been established during her childhood and adolescence; and at Oxford she contributed to undergraduate journals and to the annual anthologies of University poetry published by Basil Blackwell. After graduating she took on a succession of secretarial posts, continuing to write poetry in her spare time, though it was not until 1944 that her first collection, Shadows of Chrysanthemums, was published; The Midsummer Meadow followed in 1946 and The River Steamer ten years later. This last, consisting in part of poems drawn from the two earlier collections, was succeeded by a period during which she had to contend at times with the fear that she might have given up writing poetry altogether; but in the mid-1970s she experienced a resurgence of her creative powers, and in 1982 Secker and Warburg brought out a fine and substantial collection, The Space Between; a slender pamphlet, Listening to Collared Doves, printed by Peter Scupham and John Mole at the Mandeville Press in 1986, confirmed the quality and consistency of this late harvest.

The publication of Scovell's Collected Poems is an event of particular importance in that it permits a re-assessment of material not only out of print but largely undervalued on prior ...


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