Stevie Smith: Girl, Interrupted
Among the edgy, innovative, and fashionable young poets drawing crowds at popular 1960s poetry festivals was a unique attraction: Stevie Smith, over sixty years old, atonally singing her poetry while wearing clothing suggestive of a schoolgirl’s uniform, complete with white stockings. Occasionally, between poems, she chattered in a form of baby talk (Sternlicht, “Introduction” 11). Her sartorial and linguistic imitation of youth suggests a current of obsessive remembering, a single-minded thirst for an imagined youth that is at once dissonant and enthralling. Although she may have startled her audiences with such displays, both her wardrobe and her chatter were entirely consistent with her poetry, for in her verse she displays the same unsettling nostalgia. Those familiar with the basic story of Smith’s childhood-a saga of illness, abandonment, confinement, and death-might wonder why she invariably returns to the child-like. But the very fact of repeated injury led Smith to imagine incessantly what she did not have. Enacting a poetic spin on Freud’s recently born “talking cure” in order to address a number of mental illnesses she carried with her, including obsessive neurosis and severe bouts of depression, Smith repeatedly writes through her childhood, especially in the early works A Good Time Was Had by All (1937) and Tender Only to One (1938). A pioneer in her own history, Smith adapts and sometimes abandons traditional forms in order to explore new territory. Infused with the sorrow of loss, she employs the sing-song rhythms of nursery rhymes and the haphazard violence of fairy tales to tackle the difficulties of an unwelcome adulthood. Using elusive and varied poetic voices, her poetry obsesses about an idyllic childhood even as it mourns the absence of it.
Although Smith hesitated in interviews to characterize her childhood as traumatic, she did acknowledge that her early years were punctuated with harsh interruptions and painful losses. Florence Margaret Smith was born in Hull on September 20, 1902. Called Peggy by her family, she did not acquire her preferred nickname Stevie until the 1920s. Smith was a fragile child, born so ill that she had to be baptized at home rather than risk the voyage to the church where her older sister, Molly, had been christened (Spalding 3). Smith’s parents, Ethel Spear Smith and Charles Ward Smith, may have been in love once, but those feelings apparently had faded by the time Stevie was born, perhaps due to Charles’s incessant longing to be elsewhere. As a young man, he had planned to go to sea with the Navy, but when his brother drowned pursuing the same career, his family forbade it (Spalding 6).2 He later wanted to join the British forces in the Boer War; by that time, however, Ethel was pregnant with Molly (Sternlicht, Stevie2). He subsequently went into business with his father, a shipping agent. He managed to travel quite a bit, thereby satisfying one of his goals, but he mishandled the financial aspects of the business so badly that he found himself deeply in debt by the time Stevie was a toddler (Spalding 7). In 1906, Charles Ward Smith ran off to sea to work on the commercial White Star Line, leaving behind his sickly wife and two daughters (Barbera and McBrien 9). Stevie’s anger at this abandonment could hardly be disguised when, decades later, she spoke of this event: “I didn’t like him very much. . . . This was just after I’d been born, and poor Daddy took one look at me and rushed away to sea” (qtd. in Dick 38-39). Together with Ethel’s unmarried sister, Margaret Annie Spear, the women of the Smith family moved to 1 Avondale Road, Palmers Green, London. Anxious for a sense of permanence and stability, Stevie Smith would remain in that home until her death, some seventy years later.
Surely it is not coincidental that around the time of her father’s departure, Stevie Smith began suffering from episodes that can only be described as fits. As biographer Frances Spalding describes it, she “had the habit of suddenly turning cold and stiff” (15). This behavior, never explained in medical terms, quite alarmed her family and likely resulted in an outpouring of attention-attention that could soothe but not eliminate Smith’s pain at being abandoned by her father. Within two years, Smith’s health had deteriorated to the point that she was diagnosed with tubercular peritonitis, a disease affecting the digestive system. At the age of five, she was sent away to a convalescent home called Broadstairs, where she lived for most of the next three years. Although she enjoyed the individual attention at first, Smith soon longed to return home. Initially, it seems, Smith was allowed to leave Broadstairs during holidays. Doctors, however, soon barred these visitations on the grounds that the child’s distress upon having to leave her family negatively affected her progress (Barbera and McBrien 14).
Smith’s separation from her family was complex, functioning on emotional and physical planes. Neither parent was dependable. Smith’s mother was only intermittently available to her daughters due to her own health problems. Postcards from the absent Charles Ward Smith revealed that Ethel had been hospitalized at least once (Barbera and McBrien 13). Even while at home, her health took its toll on her ability to participate in the family. History has left scholars no reliable indication of whether Ethel’s illnesses were physical or psychological. Regardless, after Charles Ward Smith’s departure, her health seemed to deteriorate slowly but steadily. That seafaring father, meanwhile, visited his family irregularly, dropping off token gifts before leaving again (Spalding 20), During these crucial and formative developmental years, Smith’s family threatened to unravel and disperse.
Smith’s concern for her mother, unresolved emotions regarding her father’s departure, and intense homesickness combined to result in a mental crisis. Only eightyears old, Smith considered suicide, thereby embarking on a lifelong dance with Thanatos. Smith arrived at an unexpected conclusion during her critical moment, choosing to see suicide as an empowering rather than alarming vision: “The thought cheered me up wonderfully and quite saved my life. For if one can remove oneself at anytime from the world, why particularly now?” (qtd. in Spalding 17). One must pause at the thought of an eight-year-old sufficiently sophisticated-and obsessively melancholy-to theorize in such a way. Later, in a conversation with Kay Dick, Smith elaborated on this thought and, in so doing, brought to light the powerful paradoxes at the core of her philosophy of life and death:
I love life. I adore it, but only because I keep myself well on the edge. I wouldn’t commit myself to anything. I can always get out if I want to. I think this is a terribly cowardly attitude to life. I’m very ashamed of it, but there it is, dear. I love death, I think it’s the most exciting thing . . . What pulls one up from these terrible depressions-it’s the thought that it’s in your own hands, that you can if you want to, make an end of it . . . because being alive is like being in enemy territory. (43)
Looking at such quotations, one may assume that Smith is testing ideas even as she utters them, vacillating between extremes. In fact, her paradoxical positioning was far from impulsive. From that pivotal moment at the age of eight until her death, she steadfastly embraced her impossible love/hate of life/death.
Freed by the realization that she could control her exit from the world-even if she had no control over how others, including her father, exited her life-Smith’s health improved enough to allow her to leave Broadstairs and return to 1 Avondale Road, some three years after she had first been admitted. Her preadolescence and adolescence were defined by a search for stability at home and a striking detachment from her educational environment. She enrolled in school, catching up quickly even though she had been educated only irregularly until that time. In spite of her natural talents, she displayed little passion for the fundamentals of education. Her moments of true enthusiasm came during songs, when she would belt out whichever melody appealed to her, regardless of what other girls were singing. Accordingly, she later noted, “I was asked not to sing, politely, because I put the other little girls off (Dick 45). Hence, perhaps, her later insistence on singing to the captive audiences at her poetry readings.
Although she continued to attend school, in spirit Smith was focused on building a family she could depend on. Smith and her sister, Molly, were quite close in age, but the two found that they had little in common. Molly loved their father dearly and possibly resented Stevie’s sometimes-visible disappointment in him. The two sisters, as Barbera and McBrien write, “were never openly hostile, and indeed they showed more concern for one another than many sisters do. None the less they could be highly critical, and kept up a kind of skirmishing” (43). While Smith herself was never considered a strict adherent of her Anglican faith, Molly’s later conversion to Roman Catholicism drove them further apart (Sternlicht, Stevie 3). With her father gone, her mother ill, and her sister unresponsive, Smith turned her affections to her aunt Margaret, whom she lovingly referred to as the “Lion.” Margaret Spear was not terribly artistic or intellectual, but she was sternly affectionate, strong, and dependable.
Even such a reliable presence, however, could not undo the damage inflicted by her father’s departure and her mother’s prolonged illness. After a month of declining health in early 1919, Smith’s mother died, possibly due to heart failure. Smith was 16. Just as her father’s departure shattered an already precarious childhood, so did her mother’s death upset Smith’s efforts to navigate the choppy waters of adolescence.
After finishing school with the emotional support of the Lion Aunt, Smith attended Mrs. Hoster’s Secretarial Training College in central London. Although she had entertained the possibility of a career in journalism, the tiny family could not afford university. Molly had received a scholarship to university, and leftover money was directed to her for expenses (Barbera and McBrien 41). Smith was quite often bored at Mrs. Hoster’s and skipped afternoon classes to explore the city. In spite of limited skills-including, reportedly, a typing style that utilized two fingers only-she received work immediately after finishing her course, accepting a position as the secretary to an engineer. A few years later, around 1923, she began working for Sir Neville Pearson, the chairman of a large publishing house. She remained with him for thirty years.
Now settled into a dull but reliable career, Smith had carved out a suitably predictable lifestyle. Emotionally, she struggled at times to keep herself afloat. Barbera and McBrien note that Smith was subject to bouts of serious depression: “Stevie was mercurial and slipped suddenly into moods of deepest melancholy” (95). Her daily commute and her lackluster profession may have functioned as a form of self-medication, holding her back from dangerous emotional extremes. Smith enjoyed meeting with friends but was never much of a socialite. She dated cautiously and became somewhat seriously involved with two different men during her early thirties. The first, Karl Eckinger, was a dashing German intellectual-whom some of Stevie’s friends believed to be affiliated with Nazi beliefs. His relationship with Smith likely fell apart due to politics. Shortly thereafter, she met the lackluster but endearing Eric Armitage, an insurance worker. The two were engaged for a short time around 1932, but Smith later indicated that she had not expected the betrothal to result in marriage (Spalding 98). Smith never dated seriously again.3
Meanwhile, Smith passed her days at Newnes, the company that now owned Pearson’s, attempting to look busy whenever Sir Neville entered the room. The great advantage to her position was abundant down time, during which she began writing poetry. She dates her first pieces to 1924; her pace as a poet steadily increased over the coming years. Her early pieces, some of which remain unpublished, are quite traditional, indicating Smith’s drive to emulate the classics as she worked up her courage to develop her own voice. Not until 1934 did Smith attempt to publish her poetry, sending off a massive stack of poems to Curtis Brown Ltd. The reader, E.B., rejected the poems with the declaration that “the majority of the poems . . . seem entirely incoherent.” E.B. goes on to state that the pieces seem to be “the outpourings of a neurotic type of mind” in which “Ugliness of everything under the sun is dragged out and commented on-particularly sexual ugliness” (qtd. in Barbera and McBrien 69). Smith refused to let even that harsh criticism deter her. Her persistence paid off, albeit modestly, when the New Statesman published six of her poems in 1935. This sampling included some of the pieces that were later to appear in her first book of poetry.
Encouraged by this success, Smith submitted a collection of poems to Chatto and Windus editor Ian Parsons. Parsons rejected the collection, and-either to dismiss or motivate Smith-suggested that she “go away and write a novel” before trying poetry again (qtd. in Barbera and McBrien 75). Without delay, Smith did just that, furiously typing away on the yellow paper discarded after making carbons at the office. Novel on Yellow Paper was completed in just six weeks. Parsons wanted to accept the manuscript, not least because he had suggested it, but his superiors outvoted him. Shortly after Chatto and Windus rejected the manuscript, rival house Jonathan Cape Ltd. agreed to publish the book. Editors at Cape, pleased with Novels sales, agreed to print her first poetry collection, A Good Time Was Had By All (1937), complete with dozens of Smith’s own illustrations, which she referred to as “beastlies.” Her poetry is sometimes introspective, sometimes childish, and always macabre. It both mocks and celebrates dysfunctional scenarios of all kinds. One critic accurately stated that “Stevie Smith . . . stands outside any tradition of the day” (qtd. in Barbera and McBrien 101). Others were more forthright in their confusion as well as their approval: “A Good Time Was Had by all is doggerel . . . doggerel of a peculiarly attractive and personal sort, which contains its own poetry.” It did not escape notice that almost none of the characters in A Good Time Was Had by all seems to have a good time. In the London Mercury, a reviewer referred to Smith’s style as “lyrical-sardonic,” featuring “shocks of pain and laughter” that were “grimly entertaining” (qtd. in Barbera and McBrien 102). While the critical community may have enjoyed the ambivalent powers of A Good Time Was Had by All, the book sold poorly. Of the 780 copies distributed, many went to reviewers (Barbera and McBrien 136).
Critics only hurt sales of this and future work in their failure to recognize Smith’s unique contributions to modern British poetry. She-like Eliot and other major figures-transcended restrictive nineteenth-century poetic norms, freely playing with language and form. But much separated her from her contemporaries, including her personal eccentricities, reluctance to read modern writing, refusal to embrace fully the literati, and that insistent, discordant strain of juvenescence that was at once suggestive of joy and revelatory of sorrow.
Eager to publish more verse, Smith did what she felt necessary: she wrote another novel. Over the Frontier appeared in 1938 and met with tepid reviews. She quickly returned to poetry, and Tender Only to One appeared in 1938, again featuring Smith’s drawings. While few critics had been able to locate thematic consistency in A Good Time Was Had by All, many agreed that death was the obsessive focus of Tender Only to One. George Stonier wrote of the collection,
She writes alternately sharp and sentimental verse . . . to nursery tunes; she is in love with Death . . . and with the scenes of childhood; her writing has the air of an odd, only, lonely child. . . . What is less easy to suggest is the mixture of nostalgia and parody, of poetry and jingle, (qtd. in Barbera and McBrien 123)
Slightly more mature, yet surely darker, Tender Only to One sold even fewer copies than A Good Time Was Had by All. Only 400 left the shelves; again, many of those went to reviewers (Barbera and McBrien 136). Nevertheless, the name Stevie Smith was firmly established among the London literati, and requests for her company at highbrow parties poured in throughout the late 1930s.
With access to a different world, Smith still resisted making any major changes that would upset the stable life she had created for herself. Acquaintances agreed that she loved the new outpourings of attention (Sternlicht, Stevie 7). During this period, Smith first began dressing like a schoolgirl and lapsing into baby talk. In this way, she enacted the role of the favored little girl, a role she had never been able to perform during her own childhood. Nevertheless, she insisted on staying on at Newnes, putting in her hours as a secretary. Similarly, she continued to live at 1 Avondale Road with the Lion Aunt-who was more than a little confused, and perhaps a bit unimpressed, by her niece’s writings. In her aunt, Smith found the antidote to the affected social scene of the literary elite. But she also found a parent figure, a person who enabled Smith’s obsession with the loss of her own childhood.
That loss lies at the heart of Smith ‘s poetry, for her poetic work is also the work of mourning. Even as Smith suffered through the repeated blows of childhood, the psychoanalytic community was formulating methods of understanding-and perhaps alleviating-the often-debilitating psychic effort involved in enduring the loss of a love object. Not surprisingly, one of the foremost works on this subject came from Sigmund Freud, who theorized the possibility of distinguishing two resultant conditions in his 1917 essay “Mourning and Melancholia.” While Freud freely admits that the essay is one of inquiry rather than argument, he does postulate some differences between the “normal” mourning and the “abnormal” melancholia Smith appears to have experienced:[W]herever it is possible to discern the external influences in life which have brought each of them about, this exciting cause proves to be the same in both. Mourning is regularly the reaction to the loss of a loved person, or to the loss of some abstraction which has taken the place of one. . . . As an effect of the same influences, melancholia instead of a state of grief develops in some people, whom we consequently suspect of a morbid pathological disposition. (164-65)
He later identifies that “pathological disposition” as a form of “obsessional neurosis” tinged with narcissistic tendencies (172). Freud explains that, while the melancholic may insist that she is worthless, the “self-reproaches are reproaches against a loved object which have been shifted on to the patient’s own ego” ( 169). What emerges, then, is a mixture of identification with the lost love object and sadism. As a response to loss, melancholia thus harbors greater potential for enduring psychic harm. Whereas mourning eventually releases the subject, melancholia’s grasp is sometimes permanent. One significant aspect of melancholia-the tendency of the subject to experience sporadic bursts of elation, or mania-remains impenetrable to Freud, who characterizes this as a form of “ambivalence” inherent in the pathology of melancholia (177). Having given up on hypnosis in most cases, Freud’s main form of treatment for numerous conditions including melancholia was the “talking cure,” the process wherein the patient, guided by the analyst, discusses anything mentally associated with the condition. By encouraging self-expression and discouraging censorship, the talking cure nurtured free and creative expression in a safe setting.
By the time Smith began writing, the popularity of psychoanalysis in many arenas was indisputable; already, the catch phrases and tools of the trade were infiltrating mainstream culture.6 Indeed, Smith herself often drew on Freud in her poetry, indicating her ambivalence towards his ideas and practices. She toys with him in pieces like “Papa Love Baby” and “Analysand,” poems to be discussed below. In these works, Smith reveals that, while she enjoys the concept of uncensored self-revelation, she resists the imposition of another’s diagnosis. By selecting the role of author as opposed to analysand, Smith begins her own version of the talking cure; she writes through her problems but refuses to hear the interpretation of the external analyst. Instead, her poetic voice measures her progress, revealing itself in shifts of tone, style, and rhythm. She holds up the issues of childhood and loss, examining them from all angles. She is the child and the adult, the victim and the perpetrator of loss. Through this constant re-examination, Smith creates a mechanism that simultaneously ameliorates the stabs of melancholy and recreates the scene of loss. Smith’s obsession is a sadistic constant companion, one she toys with in moments of elation, but never releases.
While Smith would likely understand her own psychology through the work of Freud and his disciples, contemporary, theory-minded readers attempting to penetrate the obsessional world of Smith can benefit from the writings of Julia Kristeva, who oilers a feminist-friendly perspective on the foundations of psychoanalysis offered by Freud. Kristeva agrees with Freud’s general analysis of melancholia as related to loss. She differs from Freud, however, in her emphasis on the maternal object-something she locates in Freudian theory even though Freud himself only briefly addresses this particular form of loss in “Mourning and Melancholia.” Also, Kristeva addresses more recent psychiatric interest in depression:
I shall call melancholia the institutional symptomatology of inhibition and asymbolia that becomes established now and then or chronically in a person, alternating more often than not with the so-called manic phase of exaltation. When the two phenomena, despondency and exhilaration, are of lesser intensity and frequency, it is then possible to speak of neurotic depression. While acknowledging the difference between melancholia and depression, Freudian theory detects everywhere the same impossible mourning for the maternal object. (9, emphasis original)
What Freud generally describes as a loss and what Kristeva identifies as the longing for the maternal object can be usefully constructed as the loss of childhood. Smith’s own cycles of sorrow and elation related to this loss varied enough to make it impossible to determine whether she was suffering from, in Kristevan terms, melancholia or neurotic depression; nevertheless, her struggle with that loss is evident in her life and, even more prominently, in her poetic fixation on macabre children and the semiotically childlike.8
Kristevan theory also illuminates the poetic manifestation of Smith’s obsession with youth. Referring directly to children’s ability to defend themselves, she states, “The child imagines, thinks out, utters the flight or the fight and a full intermediate gamut as well, and this can be a deterrent from withdrawal into inactivity or playing dead, wounded by irreparable frustrations or harms” (36). The child is equipped with mechanisms to ward off the paralysis of melancholia; in childlike behavior, the adult can find momentary safety. On one level, then, Smith reverts to childlike behaviors and rhythms as a way to defend her psyche against the ache of the adult reality. But on another level, the childlike is the signification of the specific loss she can neither escape nor fully recapture. The poetic use of the childlike is thus an attempt to return to what has been taken away: “through melody, rhythm, semantic polyvalency, the so-called poetic form, which decomposes and recomposes signs, is the sole ‘container’ seemingly able to secure an uncertain but adequate hold over the Thing” (14). Through semiotic mimicry of what was lost, Smith attempts repeatedly to hold that lost object in her grasp. Because this hold is temporary and fluid, however, the efforts mustbe constantly renewed-thus, the obsession. For this reason, depression and melancholia often come with an “accelerated, creative cognitive process” (59).
The quest-whether through art or other forms of signification-is destined to fail, since the loss is permanent. Inherent in the effort to recapture the Thing is a form of ambivalence towards the self and the loss:
The disappearance of that essential being continues to deprive me of what is most worthwhile in me; I live it as a wound or deprivation, discovering just the same that my grief is but the deferment of the hatred or desire for ascendancy that I nurture with respect to the one who betrayed or abandoned me. (5)
EchoingFreud’s notion of self-reproach as reproach of the other, the state of melancholy as described by Kristeva offers no resolution-only an enduring, painful search for impossible closure. Inevitably, death looms large, offering what Freud terms “a return to an earlier state,” a state of being that precedes fracture and loss (qtd. in Kristeva 14). While death does act as a “final triumph,” its drawback for Smith is an end to the masochism of her obsession. She embraces her own death-drive but recognizes how dependent she has become on the psychological struggle involved in her loss.
That struggle motivates and shapes her creative output, through which she animates the phantoms of her loss. In A Good Time Was Had by All, Smith’s poems on childhood reveal a deep ambivalence towards youth and the young. As Smith’s first collection of poetry, it also represents her early search for her own poetic voice; the passion and ambition of the book emerge in a combination of potent word choice and disturbing images. The first poem in the collection establishes the mixture of the childlike and the macabre. In “The Hound of Ulster,” a young boy, prompted by the “stranger” who narrates the piece, stares into the window of a pet store, eagerly surveying the assortment of puppies:
Little dogs big dogs
Dogs for sport and pleasure
Fat dogs meager dogs
Dogs for lap and leisure.
Do you see that wire-haired terrier?
Could anything be merrier?
Do you see that Labrador retriever?
His name is Belvoir (7-14)9
The neat, relatively tidy meter pushes the poem along at a nursery-rhyme clip. The child is “beguiled,” entranced by the stranger’s words and the vision before him. Up to this point, the poem is charming and light. The boy, however, pushes for more: “But tell me I pray / What lurks in the gray / Gold shadows at the back of the shop?” (17-19). The stranger-who approached the child and urged him to look in the windows in the first place-now abruptly changes tone, leaving the reader to wonder if the stranger’s goal was leading the child to catch a glimpse of that darkness: “Little boy do not stop / Come away / From the puppy shop” (20-22). What lurks is the Hound of Ulster, a figure from Irish mythology also called Cuchulain, who in Smith’s poem lies “tethered by his golden hair / His eyes are closed and his lips are pale” (25-26). As a youth, Cuchulain was given the choice of long life or fame; choosing fame, he then learned that his life would begin and end with the death of a dog. During his short but valiant life, he acted as a sort of watchdog over Ulster (Haring). Smith’s mention of Cuchulain suggests that the boy should exercise caution and resist the dangers of living bravely.
Importantly, “Belvoir”-pronounced “beaver”-was the name of Smith’s own beloved dog. Through including this unlikely name, Smith ties the poem to her own life. Is she, then, the sadistic stranger leading the child to the edge of danger, only to stop him from plunging off that edge? Or is she the child, curious to the point of peril? The answer may be both: Smith is the adult leading herself on a tour of the darkness she first perceived as a child. This position enables Smith to re-enact punitive remembrance as the perpetrator and the victim, maximizing the experience of the “self-reproaches [which] are reproaches against a loved object . . . shifted on to the patient’s own ego” (Freud 169). In her poetic quest to recreate the childhood she lost, Smith finds trauma inescapable. Childhood for Smith was a scene of unmistakably complex emotional responses, not a carefree age of innocence. In her glimpses of childhood joy, Smith constructs images of the possibilities taken from her at the moment of loss; that loss, in turn, circumscribes her awareness of childhood, sending her creative expressions towards grief and darkness.
The wandering reproach visible in “The Hound of Ulster” becomes anger in “Papa Love Baby,” a poem grown from the soil of Freud’s Oedipus and Electra theories. Like “The Hound of Ulster,” this piece contains references that connect to Smith’s own life. Nevertheless, to categorize it as purely autobiographical does a disservice to the creative re-envisioning involved in the writing process. The speaker begins by explaining that her mother “was a romantic girl” who, wooed by his good looks, married a man who “subsequently became my unrespected papa” (1, 3). Witnessing how her father fails and disappoints the family, the speaker soon disputes Freudian theory: “What folly it is that daughters are always supposed to be / In love with papa. It wasn’t the case with me /…/ What a sad fate to befall / A child of three” (5-10). The burden of a love she could not return weighs heavily on the child, who, out of guilt, attempts to disguise her dislike. Her attempts fail, however, “And a fortnight later papa ran away to sea” (14). While she does “not grieve” when he departs, the speaker suggests in conclusion that “I was somewhat to blame” (17-18). Blame shifts between father and daughter, between the disappointing “loved object” and the ego (Freud 169). This shifting fault parallels the open title, “Papa Love Baby,” which can be read either as a childlike restatement of the one-sided love (“Father loves the baby”), a tragically misguided plea (“Father, please love me”), or the salutation and conclusion of an apology (“To father, love baby”).
Smith’s obsession with an uncomfortable, discordant childhood compels her to replay the scenes of trauma over and over again, hoping each time for a different ending. This realization emerges clearly in the poem “Infant,” short enough-and powerful enough-to merit including in its entirety:
It was a cynical babe
Lay in its mother’s arms
Born two months too soon
After many alarms
Why is its mother sad
Weeping without a friend
Where is father-say?
He tarries in Ostend.
It was a cynical babe. Reader, before you condemn, pause,
It was a cynical babe. Not without cause.
Like the notion of an eight-year-old contemplating suicide, this poem’s vision of an infant made bitter even before she can speak startles and unsettles the reader. Smith anticipates that reaction with a sudden, dramatic change in meter. While lines one through eight roughly adhere to a trimetric structure, line nine-containing the statement “Reader, before you condemn, pause”-is heptametric, carrying roughly twice the rhythmic weight of previous lines. The final line moves to pentameter. This choppy, uncertain form points to Smith’s understanding that the idea at the heart of the poem will prove difficult for readers. Similarly, she repeats the opening phrase-“It was a cynical babe”-in the two final lines, driving home the point that one may wish to avoid. The contrasts within the poem are further reinforced by Smith’s accompanying illustration, that of a docile mother cradling-possibly breast-feeding-a swaddled infant. The two sit beside a table on which a healthy plant rests. The image is domestic, comforting, and benign; juxtaposed with the poem, it emphasizes how the traumas of infancy and childhood are often invisible.
To access those invisible traumas without opening her own wounds, Smith displaces pain onto the mythical children of her poems-or, in several cases, onto young animals. In fact, animals are often more sympathetically portrayed than small children. Whereas children usually share the blame of a given tragedy, animals are voiceless victims, endlessly loyal to their abusers. This tendency can be seen in the poem “Death Bereaves our Common Mother / Nature Grieves for my Dead Brother.” Although the lengthy title might suggest otherwise, this is another very brief piece:
Lamb dead, dead lamb,
He was, I am,
Separation by a tense
Baulks my eyes’ indifference.
Can I see the lately dead
And not bend a sympathetic head?
Can I see lamb dead as mutton
And not care a solitary button?
What Smith approaches here is the connection between herself and the lamb; only the frayed thread of language separates the two. That fragile distinction (was/am) proves slight comfort to the speaker as she looks upon the carcass of the lamb. In classic Smith style, the poem gains its power as a result of seemingly contradictory style and content. The first two lines, containing only monosyllabic words, mix a sing-song dimeter with a grim subject matter. The lamb, a symbol of children’s innocence, also represents the proverbial sacrifice. Innocence has fallen prey to the whims of the guilty. Smith’s ambivalence becomes manifest in the form of the “indifference” with which she approaches the animal. The adultspeaker simultaneously feels connected to and indifferent towards death and loss. In this case, the sacrifice is a useless one, creating nothing more than mutton. The killers will consume their victim, just as the psychological perpetrators of childhood trauma feed on the pain they create.
The link between violence and childhood is rarely more apparent than in the fairy tale, a genre Smith adopts and manipulates in her longer poem “Little Boy Lost.” Alluding both to changeling myths and the story of Hansel and Gretel, this first-person piece narrates the journey of a boy whose father leads him into the woods-and into the arms of a witch:
The wood was rather old and dark
The witch was very ugly
And if it hadn’t been for father
Walking there so smugly
I never should have followed
The beckoning of her finger. (1-6)
The dire need that may have caused a well-meaning father to wrong his children is omitted from Smith’s retelling of the story. The inclusion of one word-“smugly”-paints his character as traitorous. Even the witch disappears eventually, leaving the boy doomed to wander the woods forever, alone and hungry. Whenever he comes upon a path, he quickly loses direction again. Escape and joy are inaccessible dreams: “I lift my hand but it never reaches / To where the breezes toss / The sun-kissed leaves above” (9-11). The child, up to this point in the poem, is the object of pity and empathy. The reader again receives a jolt, then, when he reflects on his family with a cold, mature distance:
Did I love father, mother, home?
Not very much; but now they’re gone
I think of them with kindly toleration
Bred inevitably of separation.
Really if I could find some food
I should be happy enough in this wood[.] (25-30)
With these words, the speaker tells the story before the story; he informs the reader that life at home, while perhaps comfortable, was barely preferable to solitary wanderings in a dark forest. His only complaint is a physical one, which indicates that he has long since learned to satisfy his own emotional appetites. His dependence on his family is limited to meals. As with so many Smith pieces, the cynicism of a young speaker creates a unique, if somewhat troubling, perspective.
While a number of Smith’s poems do not appear to concern children or childhood in their content, the form suggests otherwise. Smith was extremely well-read, having studied poetry from classical through Victorian eras.12 As mentioned above, her earliest pieces emulated the classics with admirable precision. Her own style, however, consisted of rhythms and meters suggestive of writing for-and sometimes by-the young. Behind the clash of form and content, the ghost of a child often lurks. An example of this appears in the four-line piece “How far can you Press a Poet?” As with several other pieces, Smith employs a masculine voice, revelatory of her desire to deflect scrutiny as well as her understanding of poetry as a canonically male genre. She writes,
How far can you press a poet?
To the last limit and he’ll not show it
And one step further and he’s dead
And his death is upon your head. (1-4)13
Evocative of the four-line Sandman Rhymes, the poem’s style conjures elements of children’s writing.14 The theme, on the other hand, speaks only to adults. Or does it? Recalling Smith’s thoughts of suicide when she was only eight, the poem can be understood as a nod to the adult within the unacknowledged child. The poet, then, is the volatile mixture of embittered adult and wise child, threatening to explode when “pressed.” In Smith’s case, no one presses her as hard as she presses herself, returning over and over again to the scene of the crime-her childhood.
For this reason, the mocking “Analysand” seems all the more profound. In it, Smith maligns the increasing popularity of confession and self-examination, a trend sparked and fueled by Freud. She proclaims, “All thoughts that are turned inward to their source / Bring one to self-hatred and remorse / The punishment is suicide of course” (5-7). The talking cure, then, leads one to confront one’s own worthlessness; once that realization has been made, suicide is the only sensible option. Otherwise, one is left with a life that is both empty and painful: “lying thinking on his bed of stone / No sleep will come to him he is alone / For evermore with every aching bone” (12-14). The futility of self-examination is a foregone conclusion for the speaker, who ends the poem with the questions: “But is it surprising Reader do you think? / Would you expect to find him in the pink / Who’s solely occupied with his own mental stink?” (26-28). Only a “puppy-fool” who longs for misery would undertake such an ill-fated voyage of discovery, Smith declares. One must wonder, then, why Smith does just that every time she writes a poem. The answer, again, comes in the theory of masochistic self-reproach sparked by the perpetual process of mourning an irreconcilable loss. “Analysand” engages in the ultimate form of self-reproach, taking aim at itself.
Death offers a resolution to the prison of melancholy in A Good Time Was Had by All, but in the subsequent collection, Tender Only to One (1938), Smith focuses even more intensely on the allure of nothingness. The title piece, which Smith unsuccessfully campaigned to have removed from the collection, establishes the tone of the book. A slow, musical, and romantic piece, “Tender Only to One” presents the musings of a speaker as she plucks the petals of a flower and envisions her lover:
Tender only to one
Tender and true
The petals swing
To my fingering
Is it you, or you, or you? (1-5)
Using a contemplative tone, Smith entices the reader through the nostalgic evocation of adolescent desire for love. According to her version of the game, as the petals fall, she uncovers hints regarding the identity of her future partner:
This petal holds a clue
The face it shows
But too well knows
Who I am tender to. (12-15)
Through the third stanza, the poem is a recollection of young love, a bittersweet and innocuous piece. That tone magnifies the effect of the unexpected and morbid final stanza:
Tender only to one,
Last petal’s breath
Cries out aloud
From the icy shroud
His name, his name is Death. (16-20)
This speaker knows to whom she is betrothed, and she enjoys daydreaming about him while her friends pursue less meaningful lovers. While hesitant to share his identity with those who will not understand her love of Death, the speaker exhibits neither fear nor regret when naming her lover, proving that she is ready for his cold embrace.
Smith’s attempts to push her speakers into the arms of Death occupy a large portion of Tender Only to One, including the short, nine-line piece “The Doctor,” in which the speaker begs for enough poison to kill herself. Smith does not specify the type of doctor to which she is referring, and the poem itself offers no conclusive evidence. In Smith’s illustration for this piece, a bald and large-headed male doctor leans forward as though listening carefully to the female patient, who reclines in an easy chair or settee while speaking. While this suggests a patient talking to a psychoanalyst, Smith’s drawings are rather unevenly helpful.16 Either way, the doctor is interested in how the patient is responding to an abstract “pain” (3). While the doctor speaks the first three-line stanza, the patient’s response forms the last two stanzas:
Structurally, the fact that the doctor’s voice does not conclude the poem underlines the perceived futility of the psychiatric and medical professions; the doctor can hear but not control or resolve the problem. “Recovery,” in fact, can only occur through death. That truth is represented not only in content but also in the word-play involved in using “cover” and “over entirely” to create a near rhyme ending of “recovery.” Only complete submersion in death can create resolution. This particular vision of death calls on Smith’s fantasy of death as a lover who comes when she beckons and carries her away. The bromide sets the mood, but the final seduction is initiated by death, not the living.
Smith’s desire for death’s seduction is re-imagined through a child’s eyes in “Little Boy Sick,” thereby once again exploring the intersection of youth and death. The allusion to the nursery rhyme “Little Boy Blue” is followed immediately by a nod to William Blake in the first few lines. Nestled between these references is a world of ache and morbidity:
I am not God’s little lamb
I am God’s sick tiger.
And I prowl about at night
And what most I love I bite,
And upon the jungle grass I slink,
Snuff the aroma of my mental stink,
Taste the salt tang of tears upon the brink
Of my uncomfortable muzzle. (1-8)18
The young speaker laments the aftermath of an unspecified illness or tragedy. Before the event, the child thought of himself as an impressive beast, one who controlled his surroundings with force and grace:
O God I was so beautiful when I was well.
My heart, my lungs, my sinews and my reins
Consumed a solitary ecstasy,
And light and pride informed each artery. (13-16)
In the aftermath, however, he is a bitter caricature of himself:
My tail my beautiful, my lovely tail,
My stripes are matted and my coat once sleek
Hangs rough and undistinguished on my bones. (9-12)
He engages in behaviors that ultimately cause him more pain, including sabotaging chances for love. He scares away anyone who comes near and then feels sorry for himself when he realizes he is alone. While the unnamed event/illness set the cycle in motion, the speaker keeps it going through repeated selfsabotage and self-pity. Addressing God, he begs for an end to his pain and humiliation, claiming that he is “melancholy” and “weary” (22, 25). His release must come from God, in the form of death.
Smith’s romance with death, which sweeps through all of the poems in Tender Only to One, began only after she realized that life was not the lover she sought. In her case, that realization came early-possibly when she was a three-year-old watching her father walk away from the family, or perhaps when she was an eight-year-old shut away in a sanitarium. Sanford Sternlicht writes, “Although Stevie’s interest in death has the ring of late Victorianism, it is never lachrymose or lugubrious. In her most serious mind, Stevie’s sense of life is tragic” (44). The developmental and psychological losses Smith suffered in her childhood scarred her and sentenced her to a life of melancholia. In her remarkably dark piece “One of Many,” Smith contemplates the possible effects of early emotional damage. Beginning with an admonition towards a young child, the poem hammers away at a child’s notion that he is special: ‘You are only one of many / And of small account if any, / You think about yourself too much” (1-3). After hearing these comments the child suffers a breakdown and throws
his fellows in a ditch.
This little child
That was so mild
Is grown too wild. (6-9)
These brief, clipped lines emphasize how seemingly small and inconsequential comments can decide the fate of a child. Transformation from innocent child to murderer occurs in three foursyllable lines. The jury convicts the child of “Murder in the first degree” and sentences him to death (10). As the child prepares to die, only the gallows show empathy, sighing “Ah me, Ah me” (13). The minister presiding offers no comfort to a child whose life hinged on the psychological effects of an elder’s comments: “Christ died for sinners, intoned the Prison Chaplain from his miscellany. / Weeping bitterly the little child cries: I die one of many” (14-15). Echoing the words that had sent him into a spiral of despair, the child reminds the reader that, indeed, he is not the only one whose youth has been squandered by the unthinking abuse of adults. The effects of this poem are further reinforced by the illustration of a hanged child, expressionless and open-eyed in death.
The murders committed by the boy in “One of Many” are abstract, framed by the empathy of the speaker. But in ‘”I’ll have your heart,'” another poem with echoes of Blake, the concept of a child seeking revenge is explored with a bloodthirsty intensity. The piece is centered on the failed relationship between a girl and her mother.19 The short but complex poem reads,
I’ll have your heart, if not by gift my knife
Shall carve it out. I’ll have your heart, your life.
I do not love you, Mother,
I do not love another,
Love passed me by
A long time ago,
And now I cry
Doh ray me fah soh.20
The interpretation of this poem hinges on whether one reads the poem as a monologue by the child or an exchange between mother and daughter. According to the first possibility, the child voices anger regarding the mother’s emotional coldness, coldness that has, in turn, rendered the child incapable of love. Her rage leads her to fantasize about hurting her mother, either by winning that woman’s affection and then rejecting it, or by physical attack. The daughter acknowledges in stanza two that no amount of punishment can reverse the emotional damage she has sustained throughout her difficult childhood. Her juvenile singing exercises mask the anguish she would otherwise express and indicate the psychological damage caused by her loss.
The alternative reading of “‘I’ll have your heart'” imagines the mother uttering the first stanza while the second stanza comes from the daughter. In this interpretation, the mother is desperate to win the love of her daughter, no matter what it takes. If her daughter cannot love her, she cannot live. The response from the child deflects blame from the mother onto an absent culprit (the father?) who, through emotional abuse, has left her unable to love. Read accordingly, the poem is a saga of a mother’s excessive dependence and a child’s attachment disorder. The mother comes across as the overly emotional, irrational being, while the child’s cold detachment contributes to a sense of role reversal. All the while, however, the child mechanically continues with the rituals of childhood, including voice lessons. Interestingly, the illustration accompanying this displays a deliberate failure of perspective. The child on her mother’s lap is adult-sized; only a bow in her hair and short skirts contribute to the sense that she may be young. Such a drawing suggests that the emotional and psychological traumas inflicted on children imprison them in a netherworld between youth and maturation.
Like the children in “One of Many” and ‘”I’ll have your heart,'” the youth in “The Deathly Child” comes from Smith’s poetic intersection of childhood and death. “The Deathly Child” offers a Smithian spin on the myth of the Grim Reaper, who is typically portrayed as aged, decaying, and shriveled. Smith’s harbinger of death, rather, is young and “very gay, / He walks in the sunshine but no shadow falls his way” (1-2). The joyful freedom of childhood immediately displays elements of the preternaturally macabre. This boy embodies the contradictions involved in a life defined by loss; he has “a heart of woe / And a smile on [his] face” (5-6). His youth should suggest vitality, but just the opposite is true:
He walks down the avenue, the trees
Have leaves that are silver when they are turned upon the breeze.
He is more pale than the silver leaves more pale than these.
He walks delicately,
He has a delicate tread.
Why look, he leaves no mark at all
Where the dust is spread. (8-14)
His presence signals that someone “must go,” but the poetic voice is no more privy to the child’s target than are any of the people idly chatting at a sidewalk cafe. He is both visible and invisible to the adults. They see a child but cannot perceive meaning or gravity or importance in him. To the adults, he is peripheral. Smith’s decision to employ a child as the representative of death points to several key concepts in her work: that children are burdened with more maturity and understanding than adults care to acknowledge; that the way an adult treats a child has real implications; and that death offers an intriguing alternative to the vapid interactions of adult life.
The child playing the part of death exists between two worlds, neither of which is home. Life and Death exercise their power over the child, who as a result ends up somewhere in between. That bipolar tension comes through clearly in “Eulenspieglei,” a changeling poem that explores the impossibly conflicted desires of the child who knows both safety and danger, both innocence and experience. The poem is named for a German trickster figure, Till Eulenspiegel, whose last name literally means “owl-mirror” (Haring). Ajester, he had a darker, more sardonic side that enjoyed base deception and potentially hurtful practical jokes. The folkloric Till Eulenspiegel, calling from outside, may be the incentive for the child to leave the nursery. But on another level, the simple term “owl-mirror,” itself a tricky phrase, may have appealed to Smith as a representation of the poem’s unstable meanings. The owl, as Rachael Haring explains, has at various times symbolized the stupid, the wise, or the devilish. Seeing this mixture in the mirror, we see our own darkness, the changeling within.
For the child in Smith’s “Eulenpieglei,” the world beyond the nursery is menacing, but its hold over her is undeniable and fearsome. The mother pleads with her daughter to avoid temptation:
The night is dark and the windowpane
Holds the rattle of the falling rain.
Oh look not forth but look within
Where the room lies safe from the stormwinds’ din. (5-8)
The netherworld continues to send forth its call, however, and the child cannot avoid it:
The tears upon the infant eyes
Are held in icy thrall
And when she speaks contrariwise
The rivven echoes fall:
Oh mother come not near me now
Nor lay thy hand on my cold cold brow
Few years if any heap on my head
But I am as old as the newly dead. (9-16)
Is it better to pretend the enchanted but menacing outside world does not exist? Is that even possible, once she has experienced it? As the storm intensifies and the night advances, the mother’s influence on her child disintegrates; eventually “The mother weeps alone / And the stormwinds beat on the window pane / To mock the maternal moan” (26-28). The changeling is the quintessential symbol of the child who feels detached from her family. Experiencing emotional isolation, the changeling takes her feelings elsewhere. And while that other place may not have the material comforts of a middle-class nursery, it does offer a better alternative to the psychological death of a stifling house. The reader finishes the poem unsure whether the child will ever return. The only certainty is that the mother will endlessly mourn the loss of her child. Again, Smith takes on two roles in her poems, parenting herself even as she berates her parents. From these poetic contradictions, she receives illumination but not resolution.
Smith embodies the changeling, balanced-or trapped-between the poles of innocence and experience. Her obsession with childhood continues throughout the rest of her poetic career, including Harold’s Leap (1950), Not Waving but Drowning (1957) and The Frog Prince (1966).21 In these post-war collections, however, Smith grows into her identity, generating poetry that is more contemplative and less narcissistic. Sternlicht argues that in the early poetry collections there are three distinct voices present: the “elfin child,” the “cynical woman,” and the “stoic philosopher” (37).22 While such a tidy system of classification diminishes the complexity of Smith’s work, I agree that the poems are often polyvocal. Sternlicht’s later assertion that the first of the three divisions have “been somewhat muted” (50) by the end of Tender Only to One underlines what many critics still refuse to acknowledge in Smith: progress. Tender Only to One is the darker, wiser, older sibling of A Good Time Was Had by All. Death plays a larger role in the second collection because the persistent, impossible child is gradually allowing a strange version of individuation to occur, wherein she will be killed in order to create a whole adult. Obsessed with her pain and her lost joy, Smith never completes this process-her garb at her poetry readings surely reinforces that statement-but she does move forward. Her progress was uneven, and Smith suffered a severe bout of depression in 1953, when she attempted suicide, cutting her wrists while at work. Although she emerged from that depression and went on to two more decades of success and popularity, signs of her obsession with childhood were evident until the end. Ultimately, as Smith predicted and dreamed, only death could release her. Her demise in 1971 as a result of a brain tumor was peaceful. In a commentary on Gerard Manley Hopkins written years before, Smith had said, “it is only on his deathbed that he could truly say ‘I am happy,’ as only on his deathbed any . . . sensitive poet can say these words-or for that matter, any human being at all, conscious of exile” (qtd. in Barbera and McBrien 297). Smith’s life in enemy territory concluded, one can hope, with that sole chance to utter the words, “I am happy.”
1 She was riding across a London park when a bystander yelled out “Come on, Steve,” referring to a popularjockey of the time, Steve Donaghue (Barbera and McBrien 41). For the purposes of this paper, I will use her professional name, Stevie Smith.
2 Spalding discusses one brother’s demise, while Sternlicht mentions two brothers who drowned (1). The uncertainty regarding the specific number does not, however, put in question the fact that Charles met with opposition from his family in the aftermath of their personal losses.
3 Frances Spalding suggests that Smith later had a year-long affair with a woman whose name remains secret (183), but Barbera and McBrien deny this assertion and any implication of lesbianism or bisexuality (63-64).
4 Smith said later in an interview with Kay Dick, “I should hate to live with a literary aunt. My aunt used to say, Tin very glad to hear you’ve got another book coming out, but as you know I don’t know much about it. It’s all nonsense to me, my dear.’ I felt this was the right attitude” (40-41).
5 Freud employs the term “sadism” rather than “masochism” because the pain, while inflicted on the self, is originally directed towards the other. In light of current usage and for the sake of clarity, however, I will henceforth describe this drive to hurt oneself as “masochism.”
6 See, for example, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by American writer Anita Loos (1925), in which the protagonist meets with “Doctor Froyd” while in Europe.
7 I employ the term “feminist-friendly” as opposed to “feminist” because of Kristeva’s own discomfort with the term due to a variety of associations made with feminism. She discusses her relationship with feminist ideologies in “Women’s Time,” a 1979 essay (The Krisleva Reader. Ed. Toril Moi. New York: Columbia UP, 1986. 187-213).
8 It is important to note that, while modern medicine might have been able to offer Smith helpful medications, my purpose is not to offer a diagnosis of Smith but to understand her poetry with the assistance of literary applications of psychiatry.
9 Numbers in parentheses refer to line numbers from the Collected Poems.
10 See the dirge “Death of the Dog Belvoir” for an interesting example of Smith’s familiarity with classical poetic traditions (Smith 63).
11 In Smith’s case, her father pours salt in his family’s wounds every time he visits and collects his wife’s money. Her mother, in turn, fans the flames of anxiety with her constant health complaints, demanding concern from her children.
12 Her only autodidactic omission was her contemporaries, whose poetry she refused to read lest it prove overly influential on her own style.
13 Interestingly, this poem predicts the reaction of friends and colleagues when she slashed her wrists while working at her desk at Newnes in 1953. Most seemed surprised that she was even depressed, for she did not “show it” until somebody pressed her “one step further.”
14 Published in 1904, Willard Bonte’s The Sandman Rhymes was a popular book to keep in nurseries.
15 It is interesting to note that the pejorative name used to describe the analysand-“puppy-fool”-again circles back to an image of youth and innocence.
16 For example, the drawing that accompanies Smith’s most famous poem, “Not Waving But Drowning,” clearly shows a female emerging from the water, while the poem refers specifically to a man. In addition, critics who have attempted to study the relationship between the drawings and the poems have often struggled over Smith’s proclamation in an interview that she simply picked drawings out of a stack of hundreds and stuck them haphazardly with poems, rather than creating drawings specifically for each poem (MacGibbon 11). For articles primarily or partially focused on Smith’s art, see Jack Barbera’s “The Relevance of Stevie Smith’s Drawings” (Journal of Modern Literature 12.2 [July 1985]: 221-236), Kristin Bluemel’s “The Dangers of Eccentricity: Stevie Smith’s Doodles and Poetry” (Mosaic 31.3 [Sep. 1998]: 111-132), or Janice Thaddeus’s “Stevie Smith and the Gleeful Macabre” (Contemporary Poetry 3.4: 36-49). One of the most sophisticated discussions comes from Laura Severin, who includes a chapter on “Poems and Drawings, 1937-1968” in her book Stevie Smith’s Resistant Antics (Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1997).
18 The phrase “mental stink” appeared first in line 28 of the poem “Analysand,” discussed above; while the poetic speaker in “Analysand” uses the phrase to mock those who undergo psychoanalysis, this speaker utters the words with a tone of disgust and self-pity.
19 The poem was originally entitled “Tu refuses a obeir a ta mere . . . !” which translates from the French as ‘You refuse to obey your mother. . . !”
20 When Smith assembled Selected Poems in 1962, she omitted the second stanza.
21 Selected Poems (1962), The Best Beast (1969) and the posthumous Scorpion and Other Poems (1972) each contained a handful of new poems but were mostly comprised of earlier work.
22 One cannot ignore the correlation with Freud’s tripartite construction of the human personality: id, ego, and superego.
Barbera, Jack, and William McBrien. Stevie. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1985.
Dick, Kay. Ivy and Stevie. London: Duckworth, 1971.
Freud, Sigmund. “Mourning and Melancholia.” General Psychological Theory. Ed. Philip Rieff. NewYork: Touchstone, 1991. 164-179.
Haring, Rachael M. “Till Eulenspiegel Was Here.” Http://www.ulenspiegel.net/Rachael.htm.
Kristeva, Julia. Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia. NewYork: Columbia UP, 1989.
MacGibbon, James. Preface. Collected Poems. By Stevie Smith. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse UP, 1991. 7-12.
Smith, Stevie. Collected Poems. Ed. James MacGibbon. NewYork: New Directions, 1983.
Spalding, Frances. Stevie Smith. London: Faber and Faber, 1988.
Sternlicht, Sanford. Introduction. In Search of Stevie Smith. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse UP, 1991. 1-37.
_____. Stevie Smith. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.
JESSICA WALSH teaches English and literature at Harper College, a two-year school in suburban Chicago. Her research interests include British women’s poetry, Victorian studies, and labor issues in academia.
Copyright Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville Winter 2004
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