Sunday, March 08, 2009

Not Waving but Drowning

Gustave Le Gray 1820 - 1882
The Great Wave, Sète, 1857
Albumen print from two collodion-on-glass negatives
35.7 x 41.9cm
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Not Waving but Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Stevie Smith
(1902 - 1971)

Stevie Smith was subject to periods of depression during her life and was preoccupied with death, but as a release or consolation.

Her best-known poem ‘Not waving but drowning' was written in 1953 and reveals her feelings of sadness and isolation at this time. It is a bleak yet comic poem

Her poetry has strong underlying themes of love and death, it is whimsical but fiercely honest and direct.

Here one can hear the poet reading aloud her work at the Edinburgh Festival in 1965.