William Jay Smith
Biography of William Jay Smith
William Jay Smith, born in April 22nd, 1918, is an American poet. He was appointed the nineteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1968 to 1970. He was born in Winnfield, Louisiana. He was brought up at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, south of St. Louis. William Jay Smith received his A.B. and M.A. from Washington University in St. Louis, and went on with his studies at Columbia University, and Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. In 1947 Smith married the poet Barbara Howes, and they lived for a time in England and Italy. They had two sons, David Smith, and Gregory. They divorced in the mid-1960s. William Jay Smith was a poet in residence at Williams College from 1959–1967, taught at Columbia University between the years of 1973 and 1975. He serves as the Professor Emeritus of English literature at Hollins University. As of 2008, he has residencies both in Cummington, Massachusetts and Paris, France. Smith is the author of ten collections of poetry of which two were finalists for the National Book Award. Smith has been member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1975. His work has appeared in Harper's Magazine, The New York Review of Books.
William Jay Smith Poems
All night the wind swept over the house And through our dream Swirling the snow up through the pines, Ruffling the white, ice-capped clapboards,
Look at him there in his stovepipe hat, His high-top shoes, and his handsome collar; Only my Daddy could look like that, And I love my Daddy like he loves his Dollar.
The World Below The Window
The geraniums I left last night on the windowsill, To the best of my knowledge now, are out there still, And will be there as long as I think they will.
See how he dives From the rocks with a zoom! See how he darts Through his watery room
A silver-scaled Dragon with jaws flaming red Sits at my elbow and toasts my bread. I hand him fat slices, and then, one by one,
How rewarding to know Mr. Smith, Whose writings at random appear! Some think him a joy to be with While others do not, it is clear.
The Floor And The Ceiling
Winter and summer, whatever the weather, The Floor and the Ceiling were happy together In a quaint little house on the outskirts of town With the Floor looking up and the Ceiling looking down.
Of living creatures most I prize Black-spotted yellow Butterflies Sailing softly through the skies.
Touch The Air Softly
Now touch the air softly, step gently, one, two ... I'll love you 'til roses are robin's egg blue; I'll love you 'til gravel is eaten for bread, And lemons are orange, and lavender's red.
The Polar Bear never makes his bed; He sleeps on a cake of ice instead. He has no blanket, no quilt, no sheet
I think it must be very nice To stroll about upon the ice, Night and day, day and night, Wearing only black and white,
"Come," the Captain said. "let me show you how this place looks from the air." And I followed him to the monoplane, the little "cat" waiting at the end of the runway.
The Dachshund leads a quiet life Not far above the ground; He takes an elongated wife, They travel all around.
Invitation To Ground Zero
Into the smouldering ruin now go down: And walk where once she walked and breathe the air She breathed that final day on the burning stair And follow her, beyond the fleeing crowds,
How rewarding to know Mr. Smith,
Whose writings at random appear!
Some think him a joy to be with
While others do not, it is clear.
His eyes are somewhat Oriental,
His fingers are notably long;
His disposition is gentle,
He will jump at the sound of a gong.