Phoebe Power – ‘Stella’s Body’ and ‘Clarsach’

Phoebe Power’s poem ‘Stella’s Body’ appears in Lines Underwater – get yourself a copy to read it! Here, she explains her inspiration behind the poem, and also lets us read another one of her poems, ‘Clarsach’.

“‘Stella’s Body’ is inspired by the phrase ‘Stella Maris’ meaning ‘Star of the Sea’, an epithet of the Virgin Mary. This beautiful image encouraged me to try to write something that combined the mermaid of folklore with the icon of Mary. For my poem I imagined a woman dense with stars, like a goddess-giant stretched across the ocean.

The Star of the Sea

The Star of the Sea

“A 14th century lyric in English and Latin begins with the phrase ‘of one that is so fair and bright, / Velut maris stella [as the star of the sea]’ (this is set beautifully to music by Benjamin Britten – listen here I don’t speak Latin, but love those words associated with Mary which appear in medieval texts, like integra, effecta, electa, salutis. Even the sound of these words is pure, star-like, almost icy, washed, salty and marine.

“Several of my poems start with a single word or group of words in mind and try to explore the possibilities of their symbolism, sound and feel. This poem takes the word ‘clarsach’, the name of a type of small metal-stringed harp, and gives it a female persona perhaps also obliquely related to an idea of Mary.”


They lift the girl-harp in a hammock

of silver wire not to touch the ground or snap

a clavicle. Her feet are blades

not pedals. They change the key in naturals

and sharps. On the lawn, she tingles

her clitoris, and notes sprinkle with the grass-seed in the air.

Phoebe Power was an Eric Gregory Award winner in 2012 and a Foyle Young Poet in 2009. Her poems have appeared in Magma, Cadaverine and Orbis.