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Born in Cambridge, England, on January 3, 1933, Anne Stevenson spent most of her early life in Cambridge, Massachusetts and New Haven, Connecticut. She was the daughter of the American philosopher C.L. Stevenson. She studied at the University of Michigan where she received a BA and an MA in literature.
Her first book of poems Living in America (Generation, 1965) was followed shortly thereafter by her first critical collection, Elizabeth Bishop (Twayne, 1966). Stevenson was the author of numerous collections of poetry, including It Looks So Simple from a Distance (Poems on the Underground, 2010), Selected Poems (The Library of America, 2008), Stone Milk (Bloodaxe, 2007) Poems 1955–2005 (Bloodaxe, 2006) and A Report from the Border: New & Rescued Poems (2003).
Bitter Fame, her biography of Sylvia Plath, was published by Viking/Penguin in 1989. Other critical books include Five Looks at Elizabeth Bishop (Bloodaxe, 2006) and Between the Iceberg and the Ship: Selected Essays (University of Michigan Press, 1998).
About her writing, she says:
I suspect there isn't really such a thing as free verse. Or if there is, I don't think I've written any. Readers may not always realize how formally constructed my poems are—but I assure you, not a single line has ever been passed over as accidental or unconsidered.
The poet X. J. Kennedy describes her poems as "achievements in which the angle of vision is particularly distinct. It is very much her own. Reading her, one is seldom if ever reminded of any other poets."
Stevenson was the recipient of The Neglected Masters Award from the Poetry Foundation and The Lannan Prize for lifetime achievement. She lived with her husband, Peter Lucas, in Durham City, England, and died on September 14, 2020.