"I may be smelly and I may be old,
Rough in my pebbles, reedy in my pools,
But where my fish float by I bless their swimming,
And I like the people to bathe in me especially women."
~Poem by Stevie Smith
Stevie Smith was a British poet and radio personality that lived from September 20, 1902 to March 7, 1971.
Born Florence Margaret Smith in Kingston upon Hull, at three years old she moved with her mother and sister to Palmers Green, London. Later when her mother became ill, her aunt Lion came to live with them. She was educated at Palmers Green High School and North London College for Girls. She spent the remainder of her life with her aunt, and worked as private secretary to Sir Neville Pearson with Sir George Newnes at Newnes Publishing Company in London from 1923 to 1953. She never married.
She wrote three novels, the first of which, A Novel on Yellow Paper, was published in 1936. She also wrote nine volumes of poetry. Her first volume was A Good Time Was Had By All. It was this that established her as a poet, and soon her poems were found in periodicals. Her style was rather dark; her characters were perpetually saying goodbye to their friends, or welcoming death. "Stevie Smith often uses the word 'peculiar' and it is the best word to describe her effects" - Hermione Lee.
She was awarded the Cholmondeley Award for Poets in 1966 and won the Queen's Gold Medal for poetry in 1969. She died of a brain tumor on March 7, 1971.
Her best known poem is the autobiographical "Not Waving But Drowning", which explores the fundamental isolation of the poet from her audience via the medium of a misapprehension relating to a swimmer dying at sea.
After Smith's death, her collected poems and three novels were republished and there was a successful play based on her life, "Stevie", written by Hugh Whitemore. It was filmed in 1973 by Robert Enders starring Glenda Jackson and Mona Washbourne.