Completing the Circle by Anne Stevenson
Published 27th February 2020
Anne Stevenson's Completing the Circle is a swansong collection of moving elegies and celebrations written in her 80s during the early decades of what she calls in her preface, 'a newly transformed, already terrifying century'. Most of these poems look back on her past from 'the viewpoint of a bewildered survivor facing up to the realities of time passing and beloved contemporaries dying'. In common with much of her work – and fittingly for this wide-ranging book of remembrance – she manages to maintain a tone that is serious without being funereal, acquiescent without indulging in confessional despair, keeping personal self-pity at bay with a characteristic detachment that can quietly slip into wit. The title-poem, while it owes a debt to Rilke, essentially expresses the poet's own long-considered belief that 'death naturally and rightly completes the cycle we recognise and accept as life'.
Completing the Circle is Anne Stevenson's 16th collection, her third since her much praised Bloodaxe retrospective Poems 1955-2005. It follows two other late collections, Stone Milk (2007) and Astonishment (2012).
‘While Anne Stevenson is most certainly, and rightly, regarded as one of the major poets of our period, it has never been by virtue of this or that much anthologised poem, but by the work or mind as a whole. It is not so much a matter of the odd lightning-struck tree as of an entire landscape, and that landscape is always humane, intelligent and sane, composed of both natural and rational elements, and amply furnished with patches of wit and fury, which only serve to bring out the humanity.’ – George Szirtes, London Magazine
‘One of the most important poets active in England today… she presents us with a complex reality where an intently sensory world inhabited by wilful resistant people is overlaid by ghosts, ideas, and spectral emissions: the historical, philosophical, and scientific – all dimensions of what obviously isn’t there and yet can’t be denied.’ – Emily Grosholz, Michigan Quarterly