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  Anne Stevenson    


Durham-based poet Anne Stevenson won the first Northern Rock Foundation Writers Award in 2002.



Anne Stevenson is a familiar name to many writers and readers in the region. Born in England of American parents, Anne grew up in the USA but has lived in England for most of her adult life. She has published collections of poetry as well as critical works, the most controversial of which was her biography of Sylvia Plath, Bitter Fame (1989). Her book Granny Scarecrow is published by Bloodaxe Books and was shortlisted for the Whitbread prize in 2000.

Anne first came to the North East as a Northern Literary Fellow at the Universities of Newcastle and Durham in the early 1980s and she has remained attached to and inspired by the region and by Durham and its surrounding areas. Anne plans to use the award to support travel to research and develop her new work and hopes to get to grips with German and Italian to widen her reading of other poetic texts.

Poet Laureate Andrew Motion commented: For many years Annes poems have delighted her readers and the work she has produced in recent years, and which we have every reason to believe will continue during the period of the award, shows her writing better than ever.

Pat Barker concurs: Now at the age of 69, her creativity undimmed and her craftsmanship enhanced by age, she is on the brink of a particularly interesting and productive period.

Annes most recent book, A Report from the Border, was published by Bloodaxe Books in January 2003 to coincide with her 70th birthday.

Since receiving the award Anne has begun to write verse adaptations of plays and short stories as well as poetry.

She lives in Durham city.

Extract from a short story in progress by Anne Stevenson

The Little Bomb

(An old lady aged ninety, crippled and depressed in a nursing home, finds an alternative life for herself in her dreams.)

The little bomb lay between them on the table where, sitting apart from the guests, they were making sandwiches and arranging them on a white oval platter with a rim of red, white and blue sailboats. A clipper ship at the centre of the platter was disappearing under the sandwiches, so that the concentration needed to arrange them smoked salmon, ham and pickle on rye, cream cheese and cress drew them together, but she was still not sure she knew him well enough to ask about the bomb. A memento from the Second War, certainly, and she hoped fervently it had been the last big war, but she understood vaguely that it was there, too, for her protection, a present from the airlines.

The summer party was already in full swing. Gathered into groups that now and then released peals of silvery laughter, the women wore floating chiffons, the men, white linen suits and straw boaters. An old fashioned English garden party. Margaret, Bruces mother, was ladling out Pimm's from the fruity depths of a punch bowl, a string quartet was silently in action on the terrace, the sun was laying familiar, bushy shadows on the lawn. As for the bomb, it looked like a toy. Its shiny metal casing was it tinfoil? pointed upward from a leaden base, painted orange. The whole of it was no bigger than her forearm, nothing to be afraid of, but now she was alone with it he must be passing around the sandwiches she noticed a flame flickering in a sort of cage, as if for lift off. If only she knew something about time bombs, or was it a rocket? Now it was making little grinding noises, like a flint lighter. What should she do? She must keep calm, not raise the alarm, but act. Surprisingly, it wasnt heavy at all. Grasping it, holding it out well away from her filmy white dress, she set off, running across the stony pasture for the lake. The obvious place to put out a bomb was the lake, though the path was much rougher than she remembered. And the fire in the little bomb was spreading. She would have to drop it, wherever she was, and hope to escape before it exploded. There, she was away and scrambling up a stony path in the cliff face

Where had the sun come from? A June morning. Light already. Squinting at the alarm clock on her bedside locker, she saw that it was only a quarter to six. There was time to finish the dream if she could get back into it. Shutting her eyes, she looked for the path again, and for the lake, but all that remained was the faintly erotic spell of the scene that should have been a nightmare but wasn't. None of the dreams that flowed into and enlivened her nights, now that her days were spent in identical torpor, were nightmares. Why? Shouldn't she be scared to death of dying?