Wednesday, February 10, 2010

30 Days of Recommendations: Collected Poems by Stevie Smith

Collected Poems

by Stevie Smith

What’s it about: the complete poems and doodles of eccentric English poet Stevie Smith (1902-1971).

Why you should read it: because of her ability to tackle a serious subject, plainly and playfully (think - the love child of Emily Dickinson and Ogden Nash) and with a healthy dose of irony. Funny and wise, aching and ironic, Smith’s nimble poems dance their way across themes of War, Death and human interaction. I keep this book on the nightstand to steal a quick, enjoyable read.

*Smith was the subject of a play, Stevie, which was turned into a 1978 film starring Glenda Jackson.


Not Waving but Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,

But still he lay moaning:

I was much further out than you thought

And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking

And now he's dead

It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,

They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always

(Still the dead one lay moaning)

I was much too far out all my life

And not waving but drowning.

Audio link to a BBC site of Smith reading the poem.

The Jungle Husband

Dearest Evelyn, I often think of you

Out with the guns in the jungle stew

Yesterday I hittapotamus

I put the measurements down for you but they got lost in the fuss

It's not a good thing to drink out here

You know, I've practically given it up dear.

Tomorrow I am going alone a long way

Into the jungle. It is all grey

But green on top

Only sometimes when a tree has fallen

The sun comes down plop, it is quite appalling.

You never want to go in a jungle pool

In the hot sun, it would be the act of a fool

Because it's always full of anacondas, Evelyn, not looking ill-fed

I'll say. So no more now, from your loving husband Wilfred.