Stevie Smith (Stevie Florence Margaret Smith) Biography
(1902–71), (Stevie Florence Margaret Smith), Novel on Yellow Paper, Over the Frontier, The Holiday
British poet and novelist, born in Hull, the daughter of a shipping agent. From the age of three she grew up with her mother and her aunt in Palmers Green, London, where she remained for most of her life. After attending the North London Collegiate School for Girls, she worked as a secretary for the magazine publishers Newnes-Pearson until 1953, when she became a freelance writer and broadcaster. Her first book was Novel on Yellow Paper (1936); she published two further prose fictions, Over the Frontier (1938) and The Holiday (1949). All her novels are substantially autobiographical; their discursive narratives are rich in the wittily heightened sense of the absurd which is strongly present in her verse. A Good Time Was Had by All (1938) introduced her as a poet and she gradually established a considerable reputation with her seven succeeding volumes, which include Harold's Leap (1950), Not Waving but Drowning (1957), and Scorpion and Other Poems (1972). She also gained an enthusiastic following as a reader of her work. A Collected Poems appeared in 1975. Her poetry ranges freely through a gamut of modes from the charmingly whimsical to the theologically serious; it frequently displays her sometimes deeply ironic sense of humour and is highly idiosyncratic in tone. Her technical procedures are similarly unusual; while most of her work rhymes, in a wide variety of forms often suggesting an element of improvisation, it is equally effective in the free verse she occasionally employed. Some Are more Human than Others (1958) contains a selection of the sketches, reminiscent of James Thurber's drawings, with which she illustrated her collections. Among the numerous works she edited are T. S. Eliot: A Symposium on His Seventieth Birthday (1958). Me Again (1981, edited by J. Barbera and W. McBrien) contains selections from her uncollected prose writings. Several biographical works on Smith include Ivy and Stevie (1971) by Kay Dick and Frances Spalding's Stevie Smith (1988).
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