“Not Waving but Drowning.” The best-known quote of the British poet Stevie Smith exemplifies her fascination with water, drowning and death. Geraldine Bell (University of Leicester) follows the flow of these themes through Smith’s poems and illustrations in her open access article in the new issue of Postgraduate English.
Death by drowning was a favourite topic of Stevie Smith’s across her poetic oeuvre. J. Edward Mallot established this in his 2003 article which concentrated on the agency of Smith’s drowning women. However, in my close examination of some pertinent examples of Smith’s water poems, I want to address the theme of communication that Mallot briefly introduced. This paper will specifically analyse how and why Smith’s waters are deadly but inviting for her various characters. I will be drawing on Smith’s illustrations and her written texts as evidence for my argument. This is in keeping with my wider research on poets who have illustrated their own work for an adult readership.