Friday, February 28, 2014

I Wish I'd Written This


By Anne Stevenson

Mind led body
to the edge of the precipice.
They stared in desire
at the naked abyss.
If you love me, said mind,
take that step into silence.
If you love me, said body,
turn and exist.

This poet is new to me. I came across this poem quoted online, and was so struck by it that I thought I must have it for 'I Wish I'd Written This'. So I researched her, and found that she is well-known. Probably many of you have heard of her, even if I hadn't.

I learn from Wikipedia that she was born in 1933, and has written many books of poetry and criticism, and a biography of Sylvia Plath, Bitter Fame. Ah, so I've heard her of her after all; I read that, years ago, but did not at the time pay any attention to the fact that Stevenson, too, was a poet.

She came from a literary family, was born in England and raised in America, and has lived most of her adult life back in the UK. There are biographical notes with a literary focus at Poetry Foundation, and you can find a selection of her poems at this link on her website.

In fact the very best source of information is her website, with links to her books, her essays and interviews, and several recordings. Also there are two pages of her books at Amazon.

I like this particular poem for its succinct and arresting encapsulation of the experience of vertigo, which could also apply in non-literal ways. And I love her ease with the half-rhymes, which are right without being trite. The poem itself is a kind of abyss; the more I look into it, the deeper it takes me. At first glance it's simple and straightforward, but it has a great deal of metaphorical and allegorical force.

Often, when I give you a short poem, I add another for good measure. Perhaps not this time, as this poem can bear so much pondering. And there are more at the link I've given you, where you can find your own favourites.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. Isn't this poem satisfying? I found it while in the midst of a health crisis, and it really spoke to me. I like what you said about half-rhymes.

    1. Yes, I can imagine how it might have resonated at such a time. I agree it's very satisfying.

  2. What a gift! Thank you. I will print it out to frame in my writing nook. It is deeper but related to another favorite of mine, "Heart, We Will Forget Him" by Emily Dickinson.

  3. Wow, really a nice poem that makes you stop and wonder...Thanks for sharing it :)

  4. Wow, Rosemary, what a riveting poem, and talented poet. Her poem Making Poetry, at this link, could have been written for Susan's prompt this week: success.

    I love her work. Thank you for another great introduction to a poet I otherwise might have missed.

    1. She's amazing, isn't she? I also love and can relate to the one about giving birth to her daughter - even though I never bore a daughter myself. But I have borne sons and have been a daughter.

  5. Oh wow! It is one of those poems that leave you speechless. It really made me wonder about what was going on in her head when she wrote this? How did she come up with something so unique and beautiful. Thanks for introducing her!

  6. what power in so few words....Thanks Rosemary for introducing Anne Stevenson...

  7. Thank you for this, Rosemary.
    I had just been writing on how thoughts create their own reality,
    which often turns them into dangerous weapons and her lines seem to sum that up so well.

  8. Thanks to you all for the comments. I'm glad to have introduced such a fine poet, whom some others didn't know before either.

  9. "If you love me, said body,
    turn and exist. "

    This poem is... I do not even have words. I have felt this way a million times! It's simplicity describes a feeling like no other words could have. WOW


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