Stevie Smith: Not Waving But Drowning

(1030 words)
  • William May (University of Southern California)

This was Stevie Smith’s fifth volume of poetry, and her first and only collection to be published by André Deutsch. In retrospect, its publication in 1957 was to help resurrect her career as a writer after a decade in which her work had received little or no attention, and had been marked by personal and professional struggles. Critical interest in the volume is centred on the eponymous poem “Not Waving but Drowning”, which is still Smith’s best-known work and remains one of the most popular twentieth-century English language poems. The title of the poem has more or less been absorbed into the language, a rare accolade for a poem written only fifty years ago. The poem itself, which Smith wrote after reading a newspaper …

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May, William. "Not Waving But Drowning". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 18 September 2006
[, accessed 27 September 2016.]