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This report is taken from PN Review 257, Volume 47 Number 3, January - February 2021.

Anne Stevenson, 1933–2020
Wavering
John Lucas
I’ve always thought that there were three factors essential to Anne Stevenson’s poetry. One, her father was a philosopher, two, that during her early years she harboured a desire to be a musician, and three, that although she was born in Cambridge, England, in 1933, where Charles Stevenson was for a year pursuing his research, she spent her early years in Harvard, and then Yale. Then, in 1945, her father was dismissed from Yale because of what Anne’s widower husband, Peter Lucas (no relation), reports was his ‘unamerican rejection of absolute values’, which led to the charge that he was corrupting the morals of the young. From an early age, Anne must have been accustomed to an atmosphere in which the life of the intellect was taken for granted, as well as a wariness about language and its absolutist claims. The fact that Charles and Louise Stevenson played host to the great philosopher, Ernst Cassirer, who, like so many Jewish intellectuals, had escaped from Hitler’s Germany, must have helped nourish this atmosphere.

A house of talk, of skeptical enquiry, a house of two pianos, a house filled with music. When Matt Simpson and I put together a festschrift for Anne’s seventieth birthday we were lent a photograph of her as a young teenager, bent over the cello, intent, concentrated. And I imagine that throughout her adult life she was never far from a piano. There was one in the cottage in North Wales where she and Peter spent months at a time, in later years, and one in her study at their home ...


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