According to Anne Stevenson, who died on 14 September 2020, a poet is that rare person ‘who is in thrall to nothing but poetry’s weird tyranny and ungovernable need to exist’. The volume and breadth of her poetry and scholarly interests attest to this uncontrolled creative urge, and we are very fortunate to have part of her poetry library.
Born in England, Stevenson spent most of her early life in America, moving back to live mainly in the UK in the early 1970s. Her first volume of poetry, Living in America, appeared in 1965. Moving between America and the UK for years, she settled in Durham in the 1990s and published several poetry collections with the Northumberland-based Bloodaxe Books. She published two biographies of female poets, the first being one of Elizabeth Bishop in 1966. More controversial was her biography of Sylvia Plath, which some critics felt was too sympathetic to Ted Hughes (J. Parini, Anne Stevenson Obituary). Her final collection, Completing the circle, came out in January 2020.
In 2015, Stevenson donated nearly 400 volumes of her library to Durham University. The collection consists of anthologies to which she contributed; presentation copies from fellow poets; poetry collections sent to her for review; and some prose works. It includes publications by independent publishers such as Bloodaxe (Northumberland), Carcanet (Manchester) and Shoestring Press (Nottingham).
If you are interested in Anne Stevenson and her work, you can find her poetry library in Archives and Special Collections at Palace Green Library. Much of her poetry and scholarly publications can be found on the shelves at the Bill Bryson Library.
Updated 03 November 2020 to correct the location of Bloodaxe Press.