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Stevie Smith, steel soul of the suburbs

Rachel Cooke reviews the life and career of the singular English poet and novelist, whose first book, Novel on Yellow Paper, is reissued

Stevie Smith was the first poet I read. I can’t remember how I discovered her; all I know is that I asked for her Collected Poems one Christmas. If the elaborately careful signature on the inside jacket is anything to judge by, I must have been about 15 at the time. I liked the fact that she was a swift read, her poems so wondrously succinct I sometimes wondered if they really counted as Literature. Far too many writers were, in my youthful opinion, far too prolix. But it was her tone that really delighted me. Her irony, her wit, that slight edge of malice: these things spoke to a moody teenager. Her voice was irresistible.

Related: Rachel Cooke on the Virago Modern Classic

Behind the lively, darting facade, behind the nervousness, caprice and periodic depressions, there was steel

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