Anne Stevenson, the lady in my loo.

I felt guilty this morning about the poet Anne Stevenson. Guilty for a moment and then not at all. Was it disrespectful, I wondered briefly, to keep her inspired book of poetry in the loo? I always keep a book there but I had never thought of the poet’s feelings until now. It works for me. It means I read at least one new poem every day. Poetry is an intimate form of communication and Anne Stevenson’s has impressed me greatly as I work my way through Anne Stevenson Poems 1955-2005 published by Bloodaxe Books Ltd. I hope she doesn’t mind the site of our daily meetings.

Anne Stevenson


I read her poem Making Poetry today and decided that she wouldn’t mind at all. As she says, you have to inhabit poetry. That means poetry should be everywhere – even in the loo. In fact the more I read her work, the more I realize that this impressive woman is pretty unembarrassed about anything. Her poetry is above such inhibitions – its a lesson I want to learn.

Making Poetry

‘You have to inhabit poetry
if you want to make it.’

And what’s to inhabit?

To be in the habit of, to wear
words, sitting in the plainest light,
in the silk of morning, in the shoe of night;
a feeling bare and frondish in surprising air;
familiar…rare.

And what’s to make?

To be and to become words’ passing weather;
to serve a girl on terrible terms,
embark on voyages over voices,
evade the ego-hill, the misery-well,
the siren hiss of publish, success, publish, success,
success, success, success.

And why inhabit, make, inherit poetry?

Oh, it’s the shared comedy of the worst
blessed: the sound leading the hand;
a wordlife running from mind to mind
through the washed rooms of the simple senses;
one of those haunted, undefendable, unpoetic
crosses we have to find.

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