Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An invitation for tea

Not Waving but Drowning (1957) by Stevie Smith

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

In November 1962, Sylvia Plath wrote a letter to Mrs Stevie Smith. "I better say straight out that I am an addict of your poetry, a desperate Smith addict.” The letter went on to say that she was planning to move to London and as soon as she would settle in, she wanted to invite Smith to come over for a cup of tea. Stevie Smith was not familiar with the work of Plath but accepted the invitation. The days passed, became months and still Mrs Smith was waiting for that invitation that never materialised. In fact this young new poet from the other side of the world had waved for the last time in February 1963. If only Stevie had known that she was not waving but drowning...

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