Festivals ‘a Strong Explosion In The Sky’: Beyond The Myth Of Stevie Smith

Sun 21 Jun | 4-5pm | £5 | Kendal Suite

‘I am much condescended to, said the poet Hin, / By my inferiors.’ (The Poet Hin)

Moniza Alvi has been drawn to the strangeness and clarity of Stevie Smith’s poetry for many years, and with her experience as a writer and the discovery of the full range of Smith’s poetry she increasingly appreciated it, and is now researching the poet’s life and work at UEA.

Stevie Smith (1902-1971) became a popular poet in the 1960s, receiving the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1969. Her much-loved poem ‘Not Waving, But Drowning’ is frequently anthologised. Despite her achievements, however, this combative, witty and probing poet is consistently under-recognised as a writer and thinker, compared, for example, with Bishop and Plath, her contemporaries.

Moniza will encourage us to look beyond the myth of the ‘eccentric’ Stevie Smith and view her as a major wartime and postwar poet. Drawing on recent archival discoveries, she’ll reveal that insufficient attention has been given to the traumas of Stevie Smith’s early life and how her work might have been shaped by these events. She’ll examine Smith’s stature as a poet and the difficulties she faced as an unconventional woman poet in the very male-dominated poetry world of her lifetime. An exploration of her reputation as a poet then and now, will lead to a consideration of why we should read Stevie Smith today.


The Brewery Arts Centre
122a Highgate


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