About Anne Stevenson
Anne Stevenson, inaugural winner of the Northern Rock Writers Award in 2002, was born in England of American parents in 1933 and educated in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where her father was professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan. After graduating with honours from Michigan, she moved to Great Britain where, claiming citizenship, she lived for most of her life. From 1974 through 1996 OUP published eight collections of her poems. Since 2000, Bloodaxe Books published three more, including a new and substantial Poems 1955-2005. Anne Stevenson is also the author of Bitter Fame, A Life of Sylvia Plath, and of two critical studies of Elizabeth Bishop.
If Stevenson’s early poetry sometimes shares a technique with Plath, addressing subjects both personally and ambivalently, in her later years she developed an ear for lyrical expression while turning her attention to the paradoxical nature of experience and to a delight in the music of language. The distinct musicality of ballads such as ‘Willow Song’ and ‘Innocence and Experience’ may be the result of a debilitating deafness which drove her, she said, to ‘play’ in verse the music she could no longer hear in reality. She was also capable of writing dramatically, in free-verse forms, though here, too, she was always conscious of the rise and fall of her cadences and of what she called ‘the tune’ of every poem.
She split her reading for the Poetry Archive into three parts, basing these divisions on a line from ‘Poem for a Daughter’: “a time, a tribe, a war.” Beginning with family poems (a tribe), she moves into a second section in which a mental struggle for existence is in evidence (a war), ending with a section on time and loss – always a preoccupation of this poet, as in ‘Arioso Dolente’ and ‘The Fiction-Makers’.
As she reads and introduces her work, Stevenson gives the impression of shining a bright and precise light on each idea in turn, speaking so as to reflect elements of Ann Arbor, Durham and North Wales, all places that come to life in her poems. She could shade the tone of her voice with mischief, as in ‘Going Deaf’, or with sorrow, as in ‘A Marriage’, but the performance always serves the poem, always works toward creating what she describes in ‘Making Poetry’ as “a wordlife running from mind to mind / through the washed rooms of the simple senses.”
Anne Stevenson’s Favourite Poetry Sayings:
“All art aspires to the condition of music” – Walter Pater
“True poetry should be [in some degree] abstract” – Wallace Stevens
“End rhymes are not enough. Every word-sound in a poem should find an echo in another, neighbouring word’s sound to achieve what Ezra Pound called melopoeia. (This is something like what the Welsh call Cynghanned.)” – Anne Stevenson
“A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” – W. H. Auden
Her recording was made on 16 August 2002 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.
Poems by Anne Stevenson
Featured in the Archive
Books by Anne Stevenson
Major Hopwood Award for PoetryPrize website
Athena Alumnae Award from the University of MichiganPrize website
Cholmondeley AwardPrize website
inaugural winner of the Northern Rock Foundation Writer's Award
Lannan Lifetime Achievement AwardPrize website
The Neglected Masters Award from the Poetry Foundation of AmericaPrize website
Taylor-Aiken Poet of the Year award from the University of the South in Tennessee
Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Michigan.Prize website