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Alas

Anne Stevenson, 7 July 1994

... The way you say the world is what you get. What’s more, you haven’t time to change or choose. The words swim out to pin you in their net Before you guess you’re in the TV set Lit up and sizzling with unfriendly news. The mind’s machine – and you invented it – Grinds out the formulae you have to fit, The ritual syllables you need to use To charm the world and not be crushed by it ...

A Belief

Anne Stevenson, 23 July 1992

...               He was an economist               so he believed in growth. ‘You can’t have economics without growth.’               The word ‘development’               frequently filled his mouth.               It made a nasal sound,               the way he said ‘infinitely expandable finality of wealth ...

Two Poems

Anne Stevenson, 12 March 1992

... Politesse A memory kissed my mind   and its courtesy hurt me On an ancient immaculate lawn   in an English county you declared love, but from politesse   didn’t inform me that the fine hairs shadowing my lip   were a charge against me. Your hair was gods’ gold, curled,   and your cricketer’s body tanned – as mine never would tan –   when we conquered Italy in an Austin 10 convertible,   nineteen thirty; I remember its frangible spokes   and the way you taught me to pluck my unsightly moustache   with a tool you bought me ...

Meltdown

Anthony Thwaite, 26 October 1989

Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath 
by Anne Stevenson.
Viking, 413 pp., £15.95, October 1989, 0 670 81854 2
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... end it makes me think that the body was governing the mind. The rehearsal of all this is painful. Anne Stevenson, against the odds, has written a decent and intelligent book. It is certainly the best book on Sylvia Plath so far – and it isn’t graceless to point out that most of the earlier books have been conspicuously unsatisfactory. But Bitter Fame ...

Going underground

Elaine Showalter, 12 May 1994

The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes 
by Janet Malcolm.
Knopf, 208 pp., $23, April 1994, 0 679 43158 6
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... she publish big chunks of previously unpublished correspondence between Ted Hughes, Olwyn Hughes, Anne Stevenson and Al Alvarez? While she so vehemently condemns the motives of those who rifle the drawers of the dead, Malcolm is herself impelled to do the same, and it is this pull between its overt and covert narratives that makes The Silent Woman such a ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: New Writing, 8 March 2001

... directed at the number of familiar names on the contents page: Barbara Trapido, Anthony Thwaite, Anne Stevenson, Alan Brownjohn, Helen Simpson, Andrew Motion, Michael Hofmann, Alan Sillitoe, Louis de Bernières and Geoff Dyer are ten of them, and ‘new’ isn’t the first word that springs to mind. But there are plenty of good reasons, too obvious to ...

Slick Chick

Elaine Showalter, 11 July 1991

The Haunting of Sylvia Plath 
by Jacqueline Rose.
Virago, 288 pp., £14.99, June 1991, 1 85381 307 9
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Passions of the Mind 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 340 pp., £17, August 1991, 0 7011 3260 4
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... Fame, the ambiguously titled (bitter to whom?) and extraordinarily hostile biography written by Anne Stevenson with the assistance of Olwyn Hughes, this criticism suggests that something terrible about Plath herself, a kind of plathology, is the source of lies, distortions, perversions and obsessions. At the other extreme has been a polemical feminist ...

The lighthouse stares back

Matthew Bevis: Tóibín on Bishop, 7 January 2016

On Elizabeth Bishop 
by Colm Tóibín.
Princeton, 209 pp., £13.95, March 2015, 978 0 691 15411 4
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... particular worry, because it meant that Bishop was off school much of the time. Later she told Anne Stevenson that ‘although I think I have a prize “unhappy childhood”, almost good enough for the textbooks, please don’t think I dote on it.’ Bishop will tell you that ‘I lost my mother’s watch,’ not that she lost her mother. Still, the ...

Prize Poems

Donald Davie, 1 July 1982

Arvon Foundation Poetry Competion: 1980 Anthology 
by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.
Kilnhurst Publishing Company, 173 pp., £3, April 1982, 9780950807805
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Burn this 
by Tom Disch.
Hutchinson, 63 pp., £7.50, April 1982, 0 09 146960 0
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... Beeson (a similarly accomplished essay in the Dantesque); from Pauline Rainford, Monica Ditmas, Anne Stevenson (two) and John Whitworth; from Aidan Carl Mathews (another besides ‘Severances’); from Thomas Shapcott (who may be Australian – we aren’t told) and from Peter Bland (probably, by the same token, a New Zealander); and from ...

East Hoathly makes a night of it

Marilyn Butler, 6 December 1984

The Diary of Thomas Turner 1754-1765 
edited by David Vaisey.
Oxford, 386 pp., £17.50, November 1984, 0 19 211782 3
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John Clare’s Autobiographical Writings 
edited by Eric Robinson.
Oxford, 185 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 19 211774 2
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John Clare: The Journals, Essays, and the Journey from Essex 
edited by Anne Tibble.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 85635 344 2
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The Natural History Prose Writings of John Clare 
edited by Margaret Grainger.
Oxford, 397 pp., £35, January 1984, 0 19 818517 0
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John Clare and the Folk Tradition 
by George Deacon.
Sinclair Browne, 397 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 86300 008 8
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... a second time, when a woman in the congregation forbade them. The poor girl, whose name was Anne Stevenson, declared that about three years ago she had a child by him, and that he had many times promised her marriage ..., and that he had kept her company so lately as Michaelmas last, and farther that she would be glad to be married to him at any ...

Lying doggo

Christopher Reid, 14 June 1990

Becoming a poet 
by David Kalstone, edited by Robert Hemenway.
Hogarth, 299 pp., £20, May 1990, 0 7012 0900 3
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... and inspiration. Significantly, the poets got there first; and later it was a younger poet, Anne Stevenson, who wrote the first book about Bishop. One wonders if this helped or hindered the advancement of her reputation where such things are decided. To have been taken up by Jarrell, crying with such operatic hauteur in the wilderness and making no ...

Erasures

Mark Ford: Donald Justice, 16 November 2006

Collected Poems 
by Donald Justice.
Anvil, 289 pp., £15, June 2006, 0 85646 386 8
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... delicately induce the hypnotic state that Bishop described as her artistic ideal in a letter to Anne Stevenson: ‘What one seems to want in art, in experiencing it, is the same thing that is necessary for its creation, a self-forgetful, perfectly useless concentration.’ A tiny poem, ‘The Thin Man’, in Justice’s second collection, Night Light ...

Awful but Cheerful

Gillian White: The Tentativeness of Elizabeth Bishop, 25 May 2006

Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts and Fragments 
by Elizabeth Bishop, edited by Alice Quinn.
Farrar, Straus, 367 pp., £22.50, March 2006, 0 374 14645 4
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... more than a personal survival strategy – it’s something like a worldview. In a letter to Anne Stevenson in the 1960s (which Quinn quotes), Bishop writes: ‘My outlook is pessimistic. I think we are still barbarians, barbarians who commit a hundred indecencies and cruelties every day of our lives, as just possibly future ages may be able to ...

Davie’s Rap

Neil Corcoran, 25 January 1990

Under Briggflatts: A History of Poetry in Great Britain 1960-1988 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 261 pp., £18.95, October 1989, 0 85635 820 7
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Annunciations 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 55 pp., £5.95, November 1989, 0 19 282680 8
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Possible Worlds 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 68 pp., £6.95, September 1989, 0 19 282660 3
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The boys who stole the funeral: A Novel Sequence 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 71 pp., £6.95, October 1989, 0 85635 845 2
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... If we start presuming that, inter alia, Douglas Dunn, Craig Raine, Christopher Reid, Anne Stevenson, Paul Muldoon, Medbh McGuckian and James Fenton are absent because Davie thinks they play no significant part in this history, then what are we to make of the omissions of J.H. Prynne and Roy Fisher, heroes of Davie’s earlier study of the ...

‘I was there, I saw it’

Ian Sansom: Ted Hughes, 19 February 1998

Birthday Letters 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 198 pp., £14.99, January 1998, 0 571 19472 9
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... are public replies, their tone is often one of public rebuke. In a letter to Plath’s biographer Anne Stevenson, Hughes wrote: ‘She never did anything that I held against her. The only thing that I found hard to understand was her sudden discovery of our bad moments (“;Event”, “Rabbit Catcher”) as subjects for poems.’ He now repays Plath in ...

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