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Catwalk report: Edith Sitwell X Stevie Smith

Amy Key

They walked out like good children at a party.

Elegantly sculpted statues, in buttercup-coloured

togas, flaxen and sincere in their isolation.


A song for rhythm, then the models flowed cool

and fluent as a river. Cropped navy trousers,

delicate trills of pearls at the hem. Dew on grass.


Elegance. Pavement-grey dresses with stiff

lacy trims, perfect and hard as a grievance  

in the mind of a lonely, sensitive poet.


Short, clotted-cream shifts fresh and loose

as cloud. The haunted magic of posy-

and goblin-print swing dresses. No faltering.


Aurora-green, coral, olive, gold, white!

The girls danced the catwalk sharp and fantastic,

like exquisite creatures with bee stings.


To end, strangeness beyond criticism. Expressions 

painted savagely, the mythological fire of passion-

smudged eyes reminded me of Gaultier if Gaultier


had declared a war on weakness. It was a victory.

Not only of inspiration, or technique. This 

was the genius of rain on a marvellous glasshouse.

The hot pink tweed cut my heart with a knife.

Note: This poem is pieced together using text from ‘Harlequinade’ (1944) and ‘What Poems are Made Of (1969) by Stevie Smith and ‘Some Observations on Women’s Poetry’ (1925) and ‘The Country Cousin’ (1924) by Edith Sitwell, first published in Vogue magazine and later selected for The Vogue Bedside Book, edited by Josephine Ross, published by Hutchinson (1984).

Commissioned by the National Poetry Library and the Centre for New and International Writing at the University of Liverpool, for the ‘Poets in Vogue’ exhibition, 2023.