The poems of Stone Milk address the way the written word preserves yet distorts the lives depending on it for fame or survival. Anne Stevenson’s highly engaging new collection opens with A Lament for the Makers, an experimental sequence based on medieval dream poetry that plays with a Dante-inspired yet modern, scientific vision of an underworld of poets. This is followed by a series of shorter poems, mostly related to ageing and the prospect (even the comfort) of dying. The Myth of Medea ends the book on a note both stoic and merry, despite its frank look at the reality of death. Stevenson rewrites the myth as an ‘entertainment’ to be set to music – her own original take on how ancient, classical stories are reinterpreted by societies that inherit and retell them.
‘While Anne Stevenson is most certainly, and rightly, regarded as one of the major poets of our period, it has never been by virtue of this or that much anthologised poem, but by the work or mind as a whole. It is not so much a matter of the odd lightning-struck tree as of an entire landscape, and that landscape is always humane, intelligent and sane, composed of both natural and rational elements, and amply furnished with patches of wit and fury, which only serve to bring out the humanity’ – George Szirtes, London Magazine.
‘One of the most important poets active in England today… she presents us with a complex reality where an intently sensory world inhabited by wilful resistant people is overlaid by ghosts, ideas, and spectral emissions: the historical, philosophical, and scientific – all dimensions of what obviously isn’t there and yet can’t be denied’ – Emily Grosholz, Michigan Quarterly.
‘Her knowledge of botany, ornithology and other natural sciences is impressive, but her talent is for fusing the disciplines into an honest and humane account of our world, and expressing this through rhythm and form…She is wise without portentousness, her technique faultless and her imagination fiery, political and fresh’ – Carol Rumens, Independent.
Anne Stevenson reads seven poems
Anne Stevenson reads seven poems, six from Poems 1955-2005 (Bloodaxe Books, 2005), and one (‘Beach Kites’) from Stone Milk (Bloodaxe Books, 2007): ‘Making Poetry’, ‘Poem for a Daughter’, ‘A Marriage’, ‘Arioso Dolente’, ‘The Minister’, ‘Beach Kites’ and ‘Small Philosophical Poem’. Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed Anne Stevenson at Highgreen Manor, Tarset, Northumberland (next-door to Bloodaxe’s former Tarset office) on 23 February 2008. This film is from the DVD-anthology In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce & edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2008).