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  • Julie Sampson

Roots; Laying out the Poem

By Julie Sampson


Bracing Budleigh's coastal air this cold January day

I read the notice fronting cliff rock-samphire canvas,

Budleigh’s ‘rhizocretions’ - roots from the past –

time passes, old plants die, their outer shell remains.

I muse on how, in life,

as you jettison the old

if you want you'll pick up a fresh word to collect each day –

how you can warm, fit it snugly

into your new year poem’s elegiac winter pocket.

Then I think of the grandmother I don’t remember,

how our lives had crossed the day after, in my cradle,

I'd cried my first six months away,

then, coming alive,

granny, died.

I recall her forbearers from these parts,

their fossil footfall litters the sandstone landscapes of this place.

Later in the day, up along the Otter's

winter's passing, in-hiding re-wilding beavers have left

a detrital trail - flotsam from the woody carcass

scatters with leaf-mould on the riverbank’s floor.

I wonder if, like crystals inside Stonehenge's bluestone circle,

our ancestors’ genetic roots preserved within a husk

tell us of deserts from away and long ago –

if, sand, they are still singing,

whistling softly under their breath

in the north-westerly winds.

Laying out the Poem

The poem, wheeling dealing across the page

is already fighting its final breath,

dying to its almost passed.

The poet, listening to inner music’s rallentando

meticulously spaces poem’s lineage –

easily missing the essential fractional quarter-beat

to syncopate

hold back


she’s tracing the wayward paths to an unsteady past –

as though laying out the one just dead -

the last line dropping the first handful of earth

into grave’s dark hold.

About Julie Sampson:

A widely published poet, Julie Sampson’s poems appear in a variety of magazines including, most recently, Molly Bloom; Bindweed; Coven Poetry; LitWorld2; Amethyst Review and Projectionist's Playground. Sampson edited Mary Lady Chudleigh; Selected Poems, 2009 (Shearsman Books) and a poetry collection, Tessitura, was published by Shearsman, in 2014. Her pamphlet/chapbook It Was When It Was When It Was was published by Dempsey & Windle, in 2018. Sampson's work has been placed or listed in poetry competitions, including a ‘highly commended’ in the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize in 2019 and an 'honourable mention' in the Survision James Tate Memorial Prize, in 2021. Sampson has a PhD from the University of Exeter on the writer H.D. Her author website is Julie Sampson; Twitter is @julieEsampson and Instagram julieesampson/writtenindevon.


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