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This article is taken from PN Review 20, Volume 7 Number 6, July - August 1981.

Frances Bellerby in Place Jeremy Hooker

Frances Bellerby was born in Bristol in 1899 and died in 1975. As well as a poet, she was a novelist and essayist, and a fine short story writer. Her Selected Poems, published by Enitharmon in 1970, were chosen by Charles Causley from recent uncollected work and from her three previous collections, Plash Mill (1947), The Brightening Cloud (1950) and The Stone Angel and the Stone Man (1958). Her last book, The First-Known and Other Poems, was published by Enitharmon in the year of her death.

Charles Causley, in his excellent Introduction to her Selected Poems, records that what first drew him to her poetry in the 1940s was, 'above many other outstanding qualities', its secure expression of 'the ambience, and the essence, of place'. The place of much of her poetry is a corner of Bodmin Moor, the surroundings and the interior of her cottage, Plash Mill. This is in some respects familiar ground, recalling the poetic worlds rooted in particular localities of Clare, Hardy and Edward Thomas, and of Charles Causley himself and other English poets since. Frances Bellerby's place is as actual if not as highly individualised as Hardy's and Thomas's, but stranger, with a life outside its history and the poet's consciousness which their beliefs exclude.

'Voices' shows her simultaneously describing a place and revealing the life of the dead:


I heard those voices today again:
Voices of women and children, down in that hollow
...


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