Stevie Smith's Poetry: Difficulty of Categorisation

Yılmaz V. B.

World Women Conference II, Baku, Azerbaijan, 11 - 12 February 2021, vol.1, no.1, pp.67-78

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • Volume: 1
  • City: Baku
  • Country: Azerbaijan
  • Page Numbers: pp.67-78
  • Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University Affiliated: No


Stevie Smith, a 20th century English poet and a novelist, left an indispensible mark on English literature with her poetry. Having been widely acclaimed as a talented poet while she was still alive, Smith enriched her works with her philosophical ideas and drawings. Such poetry collections like Harold’s Leap (1950), Not Waving but Drowning (1957), Selected Poems (1962), and many other contributed to her success as a world-wide famous poet. It is possible to grasp the maturity process of a speaking persona in Smith’s poetry starting from her early poetry up to her last works. As the speaking persona matures, philosophical content becomes more intense. This study examines Stevie Smith’s poetry in terms of such topics like rejection of categorisation, feminism, escape, death, and loneliness. In several of her poems it is easy to see Smith’s struggle to escape categorisation in terms of content. This rejection of categorisation leads Smith into a discussion of gender issues in her poetry, which becomes more vivid in some of her poems where she questions the patriarchal order. Next, there is a theme of escape through which Smith tries to express her ideas related to the suffocating environment people may have. The idea of death in Smith’s poetry is a kind of mystery that the speaking persona wants to deal with. The sense of estrangement and loneliness in Smith’s poetry usually appears as a result of a lack of communication between people. Throughout the study, it is possible to see that Smith’s poetry is difficult to pin down to a particular period or theme because of her tendency to cross various boundaries. This study will come to a conclusion by stating that Stevie Smith’s poetry is her way of expressing her ideas related to the ever-changing world; she tries to challenge patriarchal world marked by fixed frames and the existence of isolated individuals severed from each other.