Stevie Smith quote written over a blue seaside sky

Dark Angels Note 116

Dearest Friends

Welcome back to our weekly Friday Note.



This week, we’re observing the birthday of English poet Stevie Smith.

Born Florence Margaret Smith in Hull (20 September 1902 – 7 March 1971), it wasn’t until she was 19 that she acquired the nickname ‘Stevie’. While out riding on a London common, one of her friends compared her to jockey Steve Donoghue and the name stuck.

She began writing poetry in her 20s and after being told by her publisher to “go away and write a novel”, her first novel ‘Novel on Yellow Paper’ was written using the yellow carbon copy paper from the offices at Newnes Publishing Company. It drew on her life experience through the eyes of her alter ego, secretary Pompey Casmilus.

“All poetry has to do is to make a strong communication. All the poet has to do is listen. The poet is not an important fellow. There will always be another poet.” – Stevie Smith

Inspiration for her poems, which were often illustrated with doodles, came from theology and fairy tales, as well as news and current affairs. Her most famous, Not Waving but Drowning is her response to a news story of a man at the seaside whose friends mistakenly think that he is waving to the shore.



Matthew Bevis from the London Review of Books (LRB) analyses the simple complexity of Smith’s work.

Watch: Simplicity in Stevie Smith’s poems and drawings



Look through a newspaper and find a story that stands out to you.

Can you create a doodle or a poem in response to the story?



Keep sending us your poems, writings, links and writerly whatnots that you’d like to share with the wider Dark Angels family.




Weekly Tuesday Gatherings

There’s no Gathering on Tuesday 27 September as Neil is in Aracena. Back to normal 4 October.

Join us for a reflective hour of reading, writing and communing led by Neil Baker. Everyone is welcome; in fact, invite a friend along. We meet at 7pm UK time. To join us, click here on the night. There’s no need to register in advance and we’ll be using the same link every week from now on.


26 Orphans: Creative Writing Workshop

As part of a project for writers’ group 26 with the Foundling Museum in London, devised by John and called 26 Orphans, John & Neil will be running a creative workshop based on Dark Angels thinking.

The workshop will be in the morning and in the afternoon there will be a tour of the museum with readings from some of the 26 writers involved. And it’s all part of the Bloomsbury Festival on Saturday 22 October.

You can find out more and book a ticket here through the Foundling Museum.


Writing With Constraints: London, 9 November

One way to make writing easier is to make it harder. That sounds illogical, but putting some obstacles in the way of your writing can be a great way to get the creative juices flowing.

Whether you are a first timer, an experienced writer or all-round creative person, this will be an enjoyable and rewarding workshop. Find out more about the Writing with constraints workshop on the website.


Be well, keep reading, keep writing and know that we’re always here..

From everyone at Dark Angels