The World below the Window: Poems, 1937-1997

Overview

This selection of William Jay Smith's work of sixty years covers the entire career of one of America's acknowledged poetic masters. It moves from the dark pre-war lyrics (Quail in Autumn) to the powerful long-lined free verse of the 1960s (The Tin Can). Here are memorable WWII lyrics (Dark Valentine) and masterful light verse (The Tall Poets), displaying the wit that enlivens all of Smith's work. Previously uncollected poems range from a haunting delineation of the ironies of age in "The Shipwreck" to the ...

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1998-04-07 Hardcover New 0801858593 Ships Within 24 Hours. Tracking Number available for all USA orders. Excellent Customer Service. Upto 15 Days 100% Money Back Gurantee. Try ... Our Fast! ! ! ! Shipping With Tracking Number. Read more Show Less

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Overview

This selection of William Jay Smith's work of sixty years covers the entire career of one of America's acknowledged poetic masters. It moves from the dark pre-war lyrics (Quail in Autumn) to the powerful long-lined free verse of the 1960s (The Tin Can). Here are memorable WWII lyrics (Dark Valentine) and masterful light verse (The Tall Poets), displaying the wit that enlivens all of Smith's work. Previously uncollected poems range from a haunting delineation of the ironies of age in "The Shipwreck" to the dramatic intensity of The Cherokee Lottery, which deals with the forced removal of Indian tribes east of the Mississippi.

Praise for William Jay Smith:

"A most gifted and original poet... One of the very few who cannot be confused with anybody else." -- Richard Wilbur

"William Jay Smith has been one of our best poets for more than sixty years, and The Cherokee Lottery is his masterwork: taut, harrowing, eloquent, and profoundly memorable." -- Harold Bloom

"His best poems are unlike anything else in contemporary American literature... Although often based on realistic situations, Smith's compressed, formal lyrics develop language musically in a way which summons an intricate, dreamlike set of images and associations." -- Dana Gioia

"William Jay Smith has given us many of the truest and purest poems an American has written: the most resonantly musical, the most magical." -- X. J. Kennedy

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Editorial Reviews

Elizabeth Frank
A welcome and generous retrospective of Smith's 'adult' work, which from its beginning has been defined by a passionate and deeply informed commitment to traditional rhymed metrical-stanzaic forms. . .That Smith has written poems replete with rhythm, rhyme, wit, and melody...is cause for celebration, homage, and gratitude. —Atlantic Monthly
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Excluding Smith's translations, longer poems, poetry for children and much of his light verse, this new and selected volume both slims down and augments 1990's Collected Poems. Appearing for the first time, the original, absorbing seven-part series "Indian Removal" searchingly explores the poet's Choctaw heritage by dramatizing America's shameful past on a hot, tear-laden, swampy Southern stage: "There will be no surrender, General. There will be no peace;/ only the murderer who waits, only the poetry that kills." The sobering, hard audacity of these lines can be traced back to Smith's early lyrics (like "Night Music" and "Chrysanthemums") in which formal skill indebted to Hardy and MacLeish barely masks the moral energies shaping concise, rhymed quatrains. Smith moved on, as this well-chosen selection shows, to lusher scenes, wittily evoked self-caricatures ("Mr. Smith" and "The Typewriter Bird") and meditations on poetic tradition, as in "The Descent of Orpheus": "O so much/ Is lost with every day: the black vanes/ Turn in an angry wind, the roses burn/ To ashes on a skeleton of wire." The newest poems confront aging in deftly achieved, Romantic tones. Throughout this summary of a formidable career, Smith's images reveal the inescapability of memory, testifying to its enduring capacity to affirm the power of the imagination.
Library Journal
In a career spanning over six decades, Smith has distinguished himself by producing more than 50 volumes of poetry, translation, children's verse, and literary criticism and by teaching at Williams, Columbia, and Hollins College. He has also served as consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress (a post now called Poet Laureate). This fine collection of poems written from 1937 to 1997 is a carefully selected sampling of his highly original and varied art. The book takes as its epigraph two lines from Emily Dickinson -- Tell all the Truth but tell it slant/Success in Circuit lies -- which is a perfectly apt summation of Smith's practice. Typically, a seemingly straightforward object or event is either transformed into a Stevensian "supreme fiction" or subtly slanted to reveal an unexpected truth: Smith opens "Plain Talk" with the lines, "There are people so dumb, my father said,/ That they don't know beans from an old bedstead," then ends by saying "That's how he felt, that's how I feel." Smith's "feeling," unlike his father's, may be prosaically "dumb." But it is poetically brilliant in refusing to distinguish beans from bedsteads in order to celebrate the integration of the world's inventory, as in "Quail in Autumn," where the eclectic rubble of a "bare place" and a "sullen mood" is suddenly integrated by a startled quail: "a swift sun-thrust of feather/ And earth and air come properly together." These are fine poems from an American master and deserve a place in any library. -- Thomas F. Merrill, emeritus, University of Delaware
Library Journal
In a career spanning over six decades, Smith has distinguished himself by producing more than 50 volumes of poetry, translation, children's verse, and literary criticism and by teaching at Williams, Columbia, and Hollins College. He has also served as consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress (a post now called Poet Laureate). This fine collection of poems written from 1937 to 1997 is a carefully selected sampling of his highly original and varied art. The book takes as its epigraph two lines from Emily Dickinson -- Tell all the Truth but tell it slant/Success in Circuit lies -- which is a perfectly apt summation of Smith's practice. Typically, a seemingly straightforward object or event is either transformed into a Stevensian "supreme fiction" or subtly slanted to reveal an unexpected truth: Smith opens "Plain Talk" with the lines, "There are people so dumb, my father said,/ That they don't know beans from an old bedstead," then ends by saying "That's how he felt, that's how I feel." Smith's "feeling," unlike his father's, may be prosaically "dumb." But it is poetically brilliant in refusing to distinguish beans from bedsteads in order to celebrate the integration of the world's inventory, as in "Quail in Autumn," where the eclectic rubble of a "bare place" and a "sullen mood" is suddenly integrated by a startled quail: "a swift sun-thrust of feather/ And earth and air come properly together." These are fine poems from an American master and deserve a place in any library. -- Thomas F. Merrill, emeritus, University of Delaware
Elizabeth Frank
A welcome and generous retrospective of Smith's 'adult' work, which from its beginning has been defined by a passionate and deeply informed commitment to traditional rhymed metrical-stanzaic forms. . .That Smith has written poems replete with rhythm, rhyme, wit, and melody...is cause for celebration, homage, and gratitude. -- Atlantic Monthly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801858598
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 4/7/1998
  • Series: Poetry and Fiction Series
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Author of more than fifty books of poetry, children's verse, literary criticism, translation, and memoirs, and editor of several influential anthologies, William Jay Smith served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (a position now called Poet Laureate) from 1968 to 1970. His memoir, Army Brat, was praised by Eudora Welty and Ralph Ellison, among many others, and his translations have won awards from the French Academy, the Swedish Academy, and the Hungarian government. Two of his thirteen collections of poetry were final contenders for the National Book Award. Professor Emeritus of English at Hollins University and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he divides his time between Cummington, Massachusetts, and Paris.

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