Stevie Smith was a tiny thing. A diminutive poet of tremendous talent with a truly unique and wonderful voice, her Collected Poems remains one of my favorite volumes of poetry I own in part for its uniqueness (her Thurber-esque line drawings scattered throughout the book are particularly priceless).
Stevie suffered from depression (as many poets and creative types are want to do) and yet she never seemed to let that depression get the better of her, channeling that sadness into a prolific writing talent whose lighthearted and humorous tone belied the loneliness and melancholy at its roots. To this day, I never cease to be amazed at how she managed to accomplish that.
Below is perhaps her most famous poem, and also (admittedly) my favorite.
Every time I read this poem, I can’t help but recall a family vacation to Ha Ha Tonka when I was a child. My younger brother Cole, who was about eight or nine years old at the time (and who couldn’t swim), had waded out from the lake shore far enough for my father to take notice. Seeing that my brother’s head was just above water, my father called out to Cole to stand up. My brother yelled back, “I AM standing up!” Dad quickly dived into the water to retrieve my brother before he drowned. Sometimes family’s good that way, I guess.