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).