A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
I longed for companionship rather,
But my companions I always wished farther.
And now in the desolate night,
I think only of people I should like to bite.
That’s Stevie Smith’s “In the Night.” For the uninitiated, it’s a pretty representative piece of her work. Witty. Dark. Deceptively simple. You could randomly pick away at this selection, Best Poems, and never spot a deviation from that list.
I guess you could say “In the Night” is in a sort of lyric mode, but many of my favorites are little narratives, like “On the Death of A German Philosopher”:
He Wrote The I and the It
He wrote The It and the Me
He died at Marienbad
And now we are all at sea.
And it’s not just the extremely short ones that are so wonderful. “My Hat” is a longer tale of a girl forced to wear an obnoxious hat to attract boys, only to be liberated by it instead. “The Frog Prince” is a thoughtful twist on the old fairy tale. And her most famous poem, “Not Waving but Drowning” is the story of a man who drowns despite his best attempts to alert everyone of his plight. (You can listen to Smith reading that one herself here.)
Accompanying the poems are Smith’s own childlike drawings. They add a storybook quality to the whole experience. A good choice for poetry dabblers and those impossible readers who want something light but heady all at the same time.
Review by Matthew