Anne Stevenson

Anne Stevenson Poems

Feet that could be clawed but are not ...
Arms that might have flown but did not ...
No one said 'Let there be angels!' but the birds

'I think I'm going to have it,'
I said, joking between pains.
The midwife rolled competent

They give you a desk with a lid, mother.
They let you keep your book.
My desk is next to the window.

Look for me
where I learned to look for myself,
in my ring of attempts
in the light of a sinking candle.

They were to have been a love gift,
but when she slit the paper funnel,
they both saw they were fake; false flowers
he'd picked in haste from the store's display,

This House
Which represents you, as my bones do, waits,
all pores open, for the stun of snow. Which will come,
as it always does, between breaths, between nights

Teach-cheap, teach-cheap, teach-cheap, teach-cheap—
Sparrows are plying their chisels in the summer ivy,
Chipping the seconds spark by spark out of the hours.
I read in each whistling chip the sun's holography.

Wars in peacetime don't behave like wars.
So loving they are.
Kissed on both cheeks, silk-lined ambassadors
Pose and confer.

Dr Animus, whose philosophy is a table,
sits down contently to a square meal.
The plates lie there, and there,
just where they should lie.

For weeks the wind has been talking to us,
Swearing, imploring, singing like a person.
Not a person, more the noise a being might make
Searching for a body and a name. The sun


Whenever my father was left with nothing to do —
waiting for someone to 'get ready',
or facing the gap between graduate seminars
and dull after-suppers in his study

Falling to sleep last night in a deep crevasse
between one rough dream and another, I seemed,
still awake, to be stranded on a stony path,
and there the familiar enigma presented itself


Spring comes little, a little. All April it rains.
The new leaves stick in their fists; new ferns still fiddleheads.
But one day the swifts are back. Face to the sun like a child
You shout, 'The swifts are back!'

I laid myself down as a woman
And woke as a child.
Sleep buried me up to my chin,
But my brain cut wild.

I've lost a sense. Why should I care?
Searching myself, I find a spare.
I keep that sixth sense in repair,

The spirit is too blunt an instrument
to have made this baby.
Nothing so unskilful as human passions
could have managed the intricate

Because hairs on their speckled daybeds baffle the little bees,
foxgloves come out to advertise for rich bumbling hummers,
who crawl into their tunnels-of-delight with drunken ease
(see Darwin's chapters on his foxglove summers)

Consider the adhesiveness of things
to the ghosts that prized them,
the 'olden days' of birthday spoons
and silver napkin rings.

'You have to inhabit poetry
if you want to make it.'
And what's to inhabit?

There, in that lost
corner of the ordnance survey.
Drive through the vanity —
two pubs and a garage — of Satley,

Anne Stevenson Biography

Anne Stevenson (born January 3, 1933) is an American-British poet and writer. Stevenson's parents Louise Destler Stevenson and C.L. Stevenson met at a Cincinnati High School. They were living in Cambridge, England, where Charles was studying philosophy under I. A. Richards and Wittgenstein, when their first daughter, Anne was born. The family returned to America when Anne was six months old, moving to New Haven, her father going on to teach at universities including Harvard and Yale. She was raised in New England, the eldest of three daughters and was educated in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where her father was a professor of philosophy. Her father was a devoted pianist and lover of poetry and her mother wrote fiction and was a talented storyteller. Stevenson learnt piano and cello and she assumed until she was 19 that she would be a professional musician. She studied music and languages, at the University of Michigan, where she began to lose her hearing; she prepared to be a writer instead. Obtaining her bachelors degree in 1954 and graduating with honours, she returned to the UK where she has lived most of her life. Stevenson married a childhood friend but her romantic ideals dissolved and the marriage was not a success. She notes that "it took me two unhappy marriages and three children to make me reconsider my assumptions." In the 1960s she lived and wrote in Cambridge, Glasgow, Dundee and Oxford. She was writer in residence at the University of Dundee and co-founded Other Poetry (magazine) with Evangeline Patterson. In 1979, with Michael Farley, she started The Poetry Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye and in 1982 she moved to Sunderland, then Durham, where she now lives with her husband Peter Lucas. As of 2011 she had six grandchildren. Stevenson is the author of over a dozen volumes of poetry, of some books of essays and literary criticism, of a controversial biography of the American poet Sylvia Plath, Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath (1989), and two critical studies of Elizabeth Bishop. Stevenson uses a hearing aid; several of her poems (including "Hearing with my Fingers" and "On Going Deaf") refer to her experience of deafness.)

The Best Poem Of Anne Stevenson

Carol Of The Birds

Feet that could be clawed but are not ...
Arms that might have flown but did not ...
No one said 'Let there be angels!' but the birds

Whose choirs fling alleluias over the sea,
Herring gulls, black backs carolling raucously
While cormorants dry their wings on a rocky stable.

Plovers that stoop to sanctify the land
And scoop small, roundy mangers in the sand,
Swaddle a saviour each in a speckled shell.

A chaffinchy fife unreeling in the marsh
Accompanies the tune a solo thrush
Half sings, half talks in riffs of wordless words,

As hymns flare up from tiny muscled throats,
Robins and hidden wrens whose shiny notes
Tinsel the precincts of the winter sun.

What loftier organ than these pipes of beech,
Pillars resounding with the jackdaws' speech,
And poplars swayed with light like shaken bells?

Wings that could be hands, but are not ...
Cries that might be pleas but cannot
Question or disinvent the stalker's gun,

Be your own hammerbeam angels of the air
Before, in the maze of space, you disappear,
Stilled by our dazzling anthrocentric mills.

Anne Stevenson Comments

yoanssa 01 October 2018

come have lick my vajina

1 2 Reply
yonas 01 October 2018

you old brat come have with a latino

1 2 Reply
Sarah Mkhonza 02 August 2016

I love this poem Anne. It makes us know the joy and gift that exists between mother and daughter. Thanks

1 2 Reply

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