Near Williamstown, MASS, credit: Peter Rintels.
The gas fire
Seemed quite a friend
Such a funny little humming noise it made
And it had a name, too, carved on it you know,
‘The Persian’. The Persian!
Ha ha ha; ha ha.
Now Agnes, pull yourself together.
You and your friends.
Florence Margaret Smith, known as Stevie Smith (20 September 1902 – 7 March 1971) was an English poet and novelist.
“When suffering from the depression to which she was subject all her life she was so consoled by the thought of death as a release that, as she put it, she did not have to commit suicide.
She wrote in several poems that death was “the only god who must come when he is called”. Smith suffered throughout her life from an acute nervousness, described as a mix of shyness and intense sensitivity…
Sylvia Plath became a fan of her poetry and sent Smith a letter in 1962, describing herself as “a desperate Smith-addict.” Plath expressed interest in meeting in person but committed suicide soon after sending the letter…
Smith was celibate for most of her life, although she rejected the idea that she was lonely as a result, alleging that she had a number of intimate relationships with friends and family that kept her fulfilled.
About Not Waving But Drowning: Jannice Thaddeus suggests that the speaker of the poem, like other figures in Smith’s works, changes from male to female as part of a theme of androgyny that exists in many of the poems found in Selected Poems.”
Buy the Faber Book of 20th Century Women’s Poetry, ed. Fleur Adcock, from an indie bookseller here.