Poetry and Personality
James Underwood supplements recent scholarship on the poetry of Stevie Smith by focusing on the problem of personality. One word that has come to be associated with Smith and her work is ‘eccentric’. Whilst certain variations on this word may be intended as praise, the perception of eccentricity has been offered in lieu of actual integration into twentieth-century literary history. The essay opens up Kristin Bluemel’s argument that we require an entirely new category of literary history to properly comprehend the achievement of an intermodernist writer like Smith. Philip Larkin’s intervention in reviewing Smith’s work and later in creating an archive at the University of Hull is assessed alongside her own seizing of the means of production by the performance of her poetry and her personality in the early 1960s, a move which enhanced her poetic reputation at the same time as it played to the reputation she was given.
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