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This article is taken from PN Review 226, Volume 42 Number 2, November - December 2015.

The Dark God of Sister Mary Agnes Luke Thompson
On the floor in front of me are forty pages of unpublished prose and poetry, all scattered and disorderly. The only part that can be easily set in place is the preface, a single typed page signed ‘Kathleen Raine’:

With all the current talk of women and their part in society, there is one age-old vocation seldom spoken of unless abandoned – that of the nun. There have been nuns in every civilised society, and long before Christianity – women who have passionately desired to enter a life devoted wholly to God.

The scattered pages are the remnants of a semi-poetic autobiography, written by the nun-poet Sister Mary Agnes and left behind after her death. Raine’s preface probably dates from 1978, and the work itself seems to have been written between November 1976 and January 1978, after Agnes’s breakdown, suicide attempt and abandonment of the convent, and after she had published her final book.

Agnes’s literary legacy is a humble one. She published just three slim volumes, Daffodils In Ice in 1972, No Ordinary Lover in 1973, and A World of Stillnesses in 1976. She opened her poetical career with:

Frost, moon, snow – silent fall, soul-musical.
Christ’s hand, outstretched to bless,
sheds silver over all.
His scars, his ring – his marriage band
are daffodils
in ice.

That first collection consists of only thirty-five short poems printed in a pamphlet of twenty pages. All of the ...

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