Not Waving But Drowning

I was just reading Stevie Smith’s poem Not Waving But Drowning. You can hear Stevie Smith talking about and reading the poem on the poetry archive.

The poem is a thoughtful comment on the pretence of life and perhaps a statement on our time. Are we waving or drowning?
“I read about a man getting drowned once – his friends thought he was waving to them from the sea but really he was drowning. This often happens in swimming baths or at the seaside – and I thought about that, in a way, it’s true of life too: that a lot of people pretend, out of bravery really, that they are very jolly and ordinary sorts of chaps but really they do not feel at all at home in the world or able to make friends easily, so they joke a lot and laugh and people think they are quite alright and jolly nice too but sometimes the brave pretence breaks down and then, like the poor man in the poem, they are lost.”

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