ENGL 011: 33
April 3, 12
The Journey of Death, War and Neglect
“All poetry has to do is make a strong communication” (Stevie Smith) Florence Margaret Smith also known as Stevie Smith was a famous English poet and novelist that lived form 1902 to her tragic death in 1971. Throughout her life Smith went through a lot of heartache with her family and especially within herself. When Stevie Smith became acquainted with the face of death, she was fascinated by the melancholy emotions of depression she began to feel. As a result, Smith utilized her emotions relating to neglect, death, and war in much of her writing. Stevie Smith was best known for her poem “Not Waving But Drowning,” which is about neglect. In this poem she portrays the speaker as saying “goodbye” to his so called friends, and welcoming death. She praises grief and sorrow in her poem “Happiness.” Here she states that all happiness has been inexistent in her life. War was another prominent theme in her writing. Much of her writing was drawn from her own life experiences but various work of literature was influenced by war, the middle class British life, and religion. Her poem, “I Remember,” was a war themed poem about an elderly man having flashbacks on the Second World War on his bridal night. Stevie Smith eloquently channeled her emotions from her troubling life experiences of death, neglect, and war, into moving works of literature. Florence Margaret “Stevie” Smith was born in 1902 in Hull, England (Biography of Stevie Smith, Poem Hunter). At the age of three, after her father left the family to join the North Sea Patrol, she moved to Palmers Green with her Mother and her sister Molly (Spalding 3). During her teenage years her mother passed away, leaving her and her sister to live with their Aunt also referred to as “The Lion” (Stevie Smith, The Academy of American Poets). After attending high school she went to North London Collegiate School for Girls where she began as a secretary with the magazine publisher George Newnes. She continued to become the private secretary to Sir Nevill Pearson and Sir Frank Newnes. Her first book, Novel On Yellow Paper, was published in 1936, which was about the uneasy feelings of World War I. Stevie Smith passed away in 1971, resulting from a brain tumor. Stevie Smith’s life was filled with death and grief beginning at age five and lasting until her death in 1971. At the age of five Stevie Smith was diagnosed with Tuberculous peritonitis (Barbara, and Mcbrien 23). After developing this disease she was sent to a sanatorium near Broadstairs. Smith had a very close relationship with her mother. Being away from home and her mother for such a long period of time caused her to experience much stress and anxiety. Smith’s mother died of heart disease when she was sixteen years old, which was a very traumatic experience for Stevie Smith. Even fifty years later during an interview Smith burst into tears when asked a question about her mothers passing (Huk 39). Unfortunately, she became preoccupied with the idea of death. Smith thought that if she forced death upon herself, her misery would end. Realizing that she hadn’t died and life would continue another day only sustained her thoughts of death, eventually leading her into depression (Barbara, and Mcbrien 25). Being compelled by thoughts of death and grief, Smith frequently incorporated those themes in her poems. In one of Stevie Smith’s interviews she states, “They are written from the experiences, of my own life, its pressures and fancies, and they are written to give ease and relief to me” (Spalding 197). Smith implies that she writes her poems not only for the enjoyment of her readers, but as a way of coping with her own emotions and feelings. Writing about her sorrows gave her inspiration to continue on and face her troubles. She writes more often about her struggles than her happiness, which is shown in her poem “Happiness.”...
Cited: Barbera, Jack, and William McBrien. Stevie: A Biography of Stevie Smith. London: Heinemann, 1985. Print.
"Biography of Stevie Smith." Poem Hunter. Web. 8 Apr. 2012. <http://www.poemhunter.com/stevie-smith/biography/>.
"Happiness." Best Poems. Web. 05 Apr. 2012. <http://www.best-poems.net/stevie_smith/poem-18829.html>.
"I Remember." Best Poems. Web. 05 Apr. 2012. <http://www.best-poems.net/stevie_smith/poem-18839.html>.
Abcarian, Richard, Marvin Klotz, and Samuel Cohen, eds. Literature: The Human Experience. 10th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. Print.
Huk, Romana. Stevie Smith: Between the Lines. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. Print.
Severin, Laura. Stevie Smith 's Resistant Antics. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, 1997. Print.
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