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Anne Stevenson obituary

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Poet and Plath biographer who explored a wide world of thought and feeling

Anne Stevenson, the poet and biographer of Sylvia Plath, has died aged 87 from heart failure. From the appearance of her first book of poems, Living in America, in 1965, her voice was distinct and clear. There was a wry tone in those poems, one of detachment and bemusement, with a tinge of social critique, as in The Dear Ladies of Cincinnati (1969), which summons these middle-class women who found husbands “who, liking their women gay, / preserve them in an air-tight empire made of soap / and mattresses”.

Her second book, published in 1966, was literary criticism: one of the first full-length studies of the poet Elizabeth Bishop, whose meticulous style influenced her own poetry, which often focused on landscapes that soon became psychological and moral landscapes, symbolic in their resonances.

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