Stevie Smith 1902–1971
(Born Florence Margaret Smith) English poet, novelist, short story writer, essayist, and scriptwriter.
Smith is most noted for her light, comic verse and unorthodox writing style. Her poems—many of which combine elements from nursery rhymes, songs, and hymns—are characterized by a simplicity of diction and a youthful, lively wit. They are not, however, whimsical or fey. Underneath their surface gaiety lurks a stunning intellectual clarity. Obsessed with thoughts of death and religion throughout her life, Smith's poems fluctuate between moods of dark, cynical speculation and frivolous abandon.
Although definitely not confessional, Smith's novels, like much of her poetry, are somewhat autobiographical. Novel on Yellow Paper, Over the Frontier, and The Holiday have as a central character a young girl who, like Smith in her youth, works in a London office and lives in a suburb with an aunt. These novels, like Smith's poetry, are full of humor but are also strung through with notes of despair and portraits of lonely people aware of the quick, sometimes brutal movement of life. With the recent republication of several of Smith's early works and the publication of Me Again: Uncollected Writings of Stevie Smith, new comment on this unusual writer is beginning to appear. Critics are once again expressing their feeling that Smith's work is difficult to classify. Many are also reiterating the belief that it is nonetheless among the most intriguing and original of its day.
(See also CLC, Vols. 3, 8; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 17-20, Vols. 29-32, rev. ed. [obituary]; and Contemporary Authors Permanent Series, Vol. 2.)