The Resurrection, Cookham by Sir Stanley SpencerSir Stanley Spencer
The Resurrection, Cookham 1924-7
Oil on canvas
© Tate  

Fiona Sampson presents her poem, 'Angels and Dirt', based on Sir Stanley Spencer's The Resurrection, Cookham.
Visit the Tate Collection online.

      Angels and Dirt

Bodies the colour of earth,
or rosy-pale as house brick:
the broad-armed locals
wrestle up.

Look – they’re everywhere
in the stone garden;
rising like hollyhocks,
like fresh loaves

Here’s Poll
and Arthur (Hang about, doll!),
all neighbourly beauty.           
And here you are
as if for the first time,

setting bread and salt
on the marble cloth –

It was no struggle, you say,
this second birth
swimming up through soil

which crumbles
where you crown –
dust from dust -
but a yearning,         

almost like love.

FIONA SAMPSON's latest books are Common Prayer (2007), and Poetry Writing (Robert Hale) and A Century of Poetry Review (Carcanet) both published this October. She has won the Newdigate Prize, been short-listed for the Forward single-poem and T.S. Eliot Prizes and recently received a Cholmondeley Award. As well as editing Poetry Review, she is at work on the Newcastle/Bloodaxe Poetry Lectures, which she will deliver in 2010, and her next collection, Rough Music, due out in May.

A Century of Poetry Review is published to mark the Society’s centenary. Poetry Review, published quarterly by the Poetry Society, is the oldest and most widely read poetry magazine in the UK, with a reputation as one of the world’s leading literary periodicals. Previous editors include Mick Imlah, Andrew Motion and the indomitable Muriel Spark. It gathers a compendious selection of key poems that were first published in the magazine. From Rupert Brooke and Thomas Hardy to today’s famous names, such as Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott, the anthology plots the story of poetry through the past hundred years. This attractive, 400-page book is published by Carcanet Press (ISBN 9781847770165), and can be bought through the Poetry Society website