Follow Harriet on Twitter

About Harriet


Poetry News

RIP William Jay Smith

By Harriet Staff

William Jay Smith

We’ll leave this week on a sad note, upon hearing of the passing of former poet laureate William Jay Smith. Earlier this week the New York Times made note of the death of the “Poet and Craftsman of Rhythm” at the age of 97. From NYT:

William Jay Smith, a former United States poet laureate whose work was known both for its acuteness of observation and acuteness of craftsmanship, died on Tuesday in Pittsfield, Mass. He was 97.

His son, Gregory Jay Smith, confirmed the death.

Mr. Smith served from 1968 to 1970 as the consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, as the poet laureate’s post was then known. He was the author of many volumes of poems, as well as criticism, memoirs, translations of poetry from a spate of European languages and children’s verse.

At his death he was an emeritus professor of English at Hollins University in Roanoke, Va.

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.

He embraced poetic devices, like rhyme and carefully calibrated meter, that many 20th-century colleagues considered passé — a self-imposed set of strictures that, critics said, gave his best work the sheen of something meticulously constructed, buffed and polished.

Over the years Smith contributed scores of poems to the pages of Poetry magazine. Take time this weekend to read up on Smith’s work, and be sure to read on at the New York Times.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Poetry News on Friday, August 21st, 2015 by Harriet Staff.