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This report is taken from PN Review 269, Volume 49 Number 3, January - February 2023.

Two Poets in the Sweet Shop Angela Leighton
In September 2020 Anne Stevenson died. I’d known her for some twenty-five years, during which time we corresponded regularly, exchanged letters, then emails, and met up often either in Hull or Cambridge. Very soon we were sending each other first drafts of poems, then second or third drafts, arguing for or against this or that version. Anne was a wonderfully sharp reader, in both senses – both sharp-tongued and insightful. She could be waywardly wrong or spot-on, as no doubt could I, but we both relished the exchanges and benefitted from having an instant, willing ear at the other end. Never one to mince her words, she would launch in with praise or blame, castigating phrases she didn’t like or understand, sometimes re-writing poems in her own voice, while I, younger and politer at first, also learned to speak my mind. She once admitted that when she read my poems she felt she was writing them herself. I in turn replied: ‘You must be my toughest reader, but I wouldn’t be without it.’ When I heard of her death in September 2020 I was in Sicily – too far to do more than write, as I did, to Peter, her husband: ‘I lose a good poet friend. You lose much more. But I knew she was weary, and I wouldn’t have had her detained against her will.’ Our correspondence is now in the University Library, Cambridge, along with Stevenson’s own huge archive of poems, rough drafts, letters.

In this third year since her death, I recall two anecdotes from our meetings. ...


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