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Stevie Smith

(1902—1971) English poet and novelist


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1903–1971)

British poet, artist, and novelist, who won the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1969.

Stevie Smith was born in Hull but her family moved to London when she was still an infant; she was educated at North London Collegiate School, after which she became a secretary to a publisher. She continued to live as a spinster in Palmers Green for the rest of her life. She first attracted notice with her Novel on Yellow Paper (1936), written with the blend of seriousness and farce that also characterized her poetry. Her first two volumes of verse were A Good Time Was Had By All (1937) and Tender Only to One (1938). Another novel, Over the Frontier, also appeared in 1938. She also contributed book reviews to several literary journals. The third of her three novels, The Holiday, was published in 1949.

In 1953 Stevie Smith relinquished her publishing post in order to care for her now bedridden aunt, who until then had kept house for her. Her best volume of poetry, Not Waving But Drowning (1957) – also the title of perhaps her most famous poem – was followed by Some Are More Human than Others (1958), a sketch book of comic, but disquieting, drawings. Her Selected Poems were published in 1962. In the 1960s the rising interest in poetry readings brought Stevie Smith into the public eye as a performer of her own poetry, both live and on radio. The simple ballad or hymn metres of her verse were well adapted to her idiosyncratic vocal delivery and she achieved a considerable following.

Subjects: Literature.


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