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7 - ‘A curved adventure’: Romanticism and the Poetry of Anne Stevenson

Michael O'Neill
Affiliation:
University of Durham
Angela Leighton
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

In her nimbly rhymed and deftly redefining ‘This’, Anne Stevenson finds synonyms for an erotic ‘X’ that might also be ways of describing the poem she is writing:

This is negation of adulthood's rule

that talks by rote.

This is travelling out to where

a curved adventure

splashes on planes of sunlight to become

one perfectly remembered room…

The ‘curved adventure’ is a phrase that surfs the off-rhyming wave of sound coiled up in ‘travelling out to where’, and it seems peculiarly right for this ‘travelling’, daring poet that ‘where’ should find a sonic and semantic companion in the onward-moving word ‘adventure’. Whatever the overt meaning of the ‘curved adventure’, and sexual intercourse has to be a principal contender, it acts as an invitation to us to attend to the curving shape of the lines themselves; the poem's ‘adventure’ bequeaths ‘one perfectly remembered room’ that is also ‘the always has been’, ‘home’, and a place that houses and unites ‘I and you’.

The lyric's own ‘curved adventure’ acts out the plot of many Stevenson poems. Her poetry searches for ‘home’, for unity, whether of time or persons, with the desire and passion that are locatable in Romantic poetry, leaving us grateful for the work that results: work that is itself, many times over, ‘one perfectly remembered room’. Yet there is no seamless, painless transition from English Romantic poetry involved in the writing of this transatlantic poet.

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Chapter
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Voyages over Voices
Critical Essays on Anne Stevenson
, pp. 98 - 115
Publisher: Liverpool University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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