Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Time to Put Poet Back in the Spotlight; the Name Cicely Fox Smith Might Not Ring a Bell Today but Journal Writer Rob Barnes and Friends Are to Share Their Enthusiasm for Her Poems in Two Public Events. Rob Sets the Scene

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Time to Put Poet Back in the Spotlight; the Name Cicely Fox Smith Might Not Ring a Bell Today but Journal Writer Rob Barnes and Friends Are to Share Their Enthusiasm for Her Poems in Two Public Events. Rob Sets the Scene

Article excerpt

War poets fall into two groups - those in the thick of the action, as with Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Isaac Rosenberg in the First World War, and those who commentate from a distance, like Cicely Fox Smith, a hidden literary gem whose life (1882-1954) spanned both world wars.

But it's something of an injustice to categorise her simply as a war poet as she made her own reputation as a 'poet of the sea'.

During her 50-year career she had more than 700 poems published as well as numerous novels and short stories.

Cicely, a barrister's daughter, was born in the Cheshire village of Lymm. Always adventurous, she travelled to Canada in 1911, returning two years later before the outbreak of war.

Her passion for the sea, ships and 'sailor towns' included the water and the metal but she also had a deep affinity with those who lived and worked in that world. It came to dominate her work.

She was in the habit of signing her work C Fox Smith, which prompted one admirer of her work to write to her as Capt Fox Smith.

When she tried to correct him, he wrote back: "You say that you are not a master but you must be a practical seaman. I can always detect the hand of an amateur."

After all, he might have thought, it could only be a man who could write of "Rusty red old hookers, going plugging round the world".

So here is one unusual person who has already broken two moulds as the lady war poet and an aficionada in the masculine world of ships.

I first came across her work on the bookshelf at home when I was a schoolboy, in a hardback set of highlights from Punch magazine from 1900 to 1930. I loved her down-to-earth choice of words, which always seemed to scan and rhyme very neatly, and the sentiments she expressed in a way that anyone could relate to, with simplicity and compassion.

She had the knack of getting straight to the heart of the matter, with an obvious first-hand knowledge of whatever or whoever she was writing about. …

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