Sunday, February 26, 2006

Poem #6: Stevie Smith

Stevie Smith was a British 20th Century poet who died of a brain tumor. Her poetry is seemingly simply in its nursery rhyme like quality, but the poems have undercurrent. This short poem is one of my favorites, though it is very sad. I guess I like it because the poem expresses such truth about life and how often we misunderstand each other. It's called "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.

Read it a few times and pay close attention to when the drowning/dead man is speaking. Smith doesn't use quotation marks, but some of these lines are quotes from speakers in the poem, and it makes a difference to figure who's saying what.


Betty S said...

I've read that before, but I can't remember where. Good poet. What a great loss.

We had a talent show at the retreat this weekend. I was amazed at how many women's talent was to get up and read their poetry.

My body is still sore from all the dancing. I guess that says something about the shape I'm in.

Heather Dawn Harper said...

I don't like to dwell on sad.

It pulls me under.

Kelli McBride said...

The poem is sad, but it's also enlightening. It makes us aware that sometimes what we think is play is actually serious. People around us are not waving, they are drowning. I'm not talking suicide or real death, but a spiritual or soul death. Just opening ourselves up, being willing to listen, to praise more often than we criticize, to send a card out of the blue to a friend for no reason at all - any of these can be life savers.

But I promise to post something more fun next.

Betty S said...

I think there is much more drowning than waving going on around us every day. We become blind to it. Not blind, like we are aware but ignore or are insensitive to it. No. Blind in that we are not even aware of what we are looking at. They are waving, after all.