Selected Poems

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Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated, 1978 - English poetry - 293 pages

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About the author (1978)

Florence Margaret Smith adopted her nickname, Stevie, as a nom de plume after a friend's joking comparison of her petite stature to that of the jockey Steve Donoghue. She was born in Hull but after her parents' separation moved with her mother, aunt, and sister to a house in the London suburb of Palmers Green. There she lived for the rest of her outwardly uneventful life. After graduation from school, she worked as a private secretary with the London magazine publishing firm George Newnes until 1953, when partly due to ill health she retired to devote her full time to writing and to BBC broadcasts. Besides her verse, her other works include three novels published between 1936 and 1949. Although she had a minor success with Novel on Yellow Paper (1936) and subsequent verse in the late 1930s, Smith came to wider public attention after the publication of her Selected Poems in Britain in 1962 and the United States in 1964. Praised by Robert Lowell and others, her poetry does not fit easily into any school or influence. Rather, her mixture of nursery or children's rhythms with a mature irony leads to a voice at once individualized yet accessible. Smith's poems often deal with death, loneliness, absent parents, and what she described as a backsliding rejection of orthodox Christianity. After 1938 she illustrated her own books with line drawings that some critics find distracting but others judge as often ironic commentaries on the text. "Not Waving but Drowning," perhaps her best-known poem, illustrates her disconcerting blend of wit and seriousness at its best. Smith was awarded the Chomondeley Award in 1966 and the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1969. In 1981, a film based on her life entitled Stevie was released.

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