One of my favorite writers—and people—is Stevie Smith. She was English, born in 1902 in Hull and raised in the London suburbs where she spent the rest of her life. Stevie wrote radio plays, essays, book reviews, and lots of poems. Her unique voice and perspective seemed to resonate with a whole generation of readers and still does to this day. One of her poems, “Not Waving But Drowning,” has entered the collective consciousness; younger people might recognize it from song lyrics and myspace profiles and not known where it came from. This is where it came from. Stevie Smith.

One of the things Stevie (I know it’s probably incorrect for me to refer to her by her first name but she’s so dear to me I can’t bring myself to use only the last) often wrote about was her “suburb.” She lived there all of her life with the aunt who raised her after her mother died. The aunt looked after her for many years and then when she became elderly Stevie looked after her. Stevie’s home was in a “high-lying outer northern suburb” of London and she called it “beautiful kindly bustling.” I got these quotes from the introduction of a wonderful out-of-print anthology of her work called Me Again.

In “Simply Living,” one of my favorite essays—not only by her but by anyone—Stevie talks a bit about her quiet life in the suburbs. She talks about the simple pleasures of her life, such as looking. “I like food, I like stripping vegetables of their skins, I like to have a slim young parsnip under my knife. I like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Looking out into the garden where the rat has his home, and the giant hemlock is now ten feet high. …The roof colors opposite are like the North Sea, in rain they are sapphire.”

Looking. That’s all. It’s plenty.

Advertisements