In a writing career that spanned more than 70 years, Mr. Smith published dozens of volumes of poetry, as well as children’s verse, memoirs, translations and essays. He taught at several colleges and, from 1968 to 1970, was the poetry consultant to the Library of Congress. . . .
Although he was born in Louisiana and taught for more than a decade at Virginia’s Hollins College, Mr. Smith was often identified as a poet of New England, where he had lived off and on since the 1950s. He was once elected to the state legislature in Vermont.
Meanwhile,The New York Times writes that Smith’s work “was known both for its acuteness of observation and acuteness of craftsmanship,” and offers the following summary of his poetry for adults:
Mr. Smith’s poems for adults were praised for diction that was at once unfussy and lyrical; for thematic variety (they ranged over the natural world, erotic love, the experience of war, his Choctaw ancestry and many other subjects); for their ability to see minutely into everyday experience; and for a deceptive simplicity that belied the rigorous formal architecture beneath.
Smith was busy throughout his two years as Consultant in Poetry. Among his many activities and accomplishments as Consultant, which are documented in William McGuire’s history of the Consultantship, Poetry’s Catbird Seat:
Through the Department of State’s American Specialists Program, he participated in two extended overseas reading and lecture tours. In May and June of 1968 he lectured and read in Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Indonesia. And in May 1969, he began a two-and-a-half-month trip to the Soviet Union, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Cyprus, Israel, and Turkey.
He worked, along with colleague Roy Basler, on the production a WETA program, Middle Passage and Beyond, featuring poets Robert Hayden and Derek Walcott.
He recorded dozens of his children’s poems, many from his book Mr. Smith and Other Nonsense, for the Archive of Recoded Poetry and Literature. A separate WETA program featuring many of these same poems launched on Christmas, 1969, and won a National Educational Television Award.
The following is a guest post written by Kahîn Mohammad, Program Specialist of the Young Readers Center of the Library of Congress. Piled high and slathered in delicious butter is the best way to eat toast according to Mercy Watson. Mercy Watson is the beloved fictional character and star of the bestselling book series for early […]
The following post, which originally appeared on the Library of Congress Blog, was written by Gina Apone, one of 36 college students who spent the last two months working at the Library as part of the 2015 Junior Fellows Summer Intern Program. Apone currently attends Michigan State University pursuing a dual degree in Pre-Law and […]
I’m excited to announce the launch of a new From the Catbird Seat series, “Literary Treasures.” The monthly series will champion the Library’s literary programming by highlighting audio and video recordings drawn from the Library’s extensive online collections, including the recently released Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature. The series, by showcasing the works and […]
The poems of Pablo Neruda are among the most frequently translated works in the English language. While the Chilean poet has for many years enjoyed a huge readership in the United States, thanks to the widespread availability of English-language editions of his poetry, few people are aware of the integral role played by the Library […]
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It’s been only two months since my previous state poets update, but since then three states have appointed new laureates: Peter Meinke was appointed Florida’s Poet Laureate on June 15; Lee Ann Roripaugh was appointed South Dakota Poet Laureate on July 1; and A. Rose Hill was appointed Poet Laureate of Wyoming on July 9 […]
The following guest post, part of our “Teacher’s Corner” series is by Rebecca Newland, Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress. In 1903, 18 years after the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York, the poem “The New Colossus” was inscribed on a plaque that today is displayed in the Statue of Liberty Exhibit […]
For most Americans today, Fourth of July celebrations involve some combination of cookouts, music concerts, movies, sports, games, and (of course!) fireworks. In the 19th century, however, one of the most important parts of many cities’ celebrations was the formal oration, in which an invited speaker would address either a selected group of citizens or […]