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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton August 31, 2009

Stevie Smith's serious comedy

  • Mark Halliday
From the journal HUMOR


Stevie Smith was a deeply original and serious poet who masqueraded as a poet of eccentric light verse, as if tempting her less perceptive readers to expose their own conventionality by dismissing her as an entertainer. Her poetic voice often imitates the voice of an impatient bright child, or the voice of an impetuous or irritable person amateurishly imitating classic poetry; but these imitations turn out to be strategies employed by Stevie Smith to achieve startling effects as what seems at first to be naïve then comes to seem strangely ironic and penetrating. As in all great comic writers, Smith's humor can be felt as an unsettling possibility always vibrating in her voice. Some of her most comic poems arise from her drastic skepticism about romantic love and marriage. She finds many ways to expose and satirize the arrogance of men, while also pointing out ways in which women cooperate with that arrogance. She implies that romantic passion is an illusion from which people need to escape so as to find another, less melodramatic center of value.

Published Online: 2009-08-31
Published in Print: 2009-August

© 2009 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, D-10785 Berlin

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