Hardback
August 19, 2008
9780801890642
English
96
1 halftone
9.25 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
.65 Pounds (US)
.65 Pounds (US)
$38.00 USD, £28.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference
Paperback / softback
August 19, 2008
9780801890659
English
96
1 halftone
9.25 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
.35 Pounds (US)
.35 Pounds (US)
$18.95 USD, £14.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Words by the Water

William Jay Smith has been one of the most respected figures on the literary scene for more than half a century. Two of his thirteen poetry collections were finalists for the National Book Award, and the present volume is clearly the work of a true American master.

The volume opens with a poetic sequence, "The Atoll," concerning the tiny coral island of Palmyra during World War II. Finding himself on the narrow rim of an extinct volcano at almost the exact center of the Pacific, water on all sides, breakers pounding the reef, the poet evokes the distinct sensation that he had of being at the heart of Herman Melville's "oceans vast." In lines resonant and memorable, he recalls the "terrifying beauty" of standing at night on what seemed then the very edge of the earth.

The poet next addresses our current daily terror—war and destruction. In "Invitation to Ground Zero" he presents a moving tribute to a victim of the September 11 disaster, while in "Willow Wood" a soldier, having recently lost both his legs in a roadside blast, utters without a trace of self-pity strong words on future wars. Tragedy marks many of these pages, but Smith does not forget his lifelong commitment to witty and satiric verse. To introduce several hilarious pieces, he reprints the celebrated poem "Dachshunds." Simplicity and musicality have given his wedding songs a wide audience. Several of them are here, including an extraordinary new one, "The Bouquet."

Variety has always characterized Smith's work. Words by the Water is particularly varied and unusually youthful and fresh.

About the Author

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 widely acclaimed. A new memoir, Dancing in the Garden: A Bittersweet Love Affair with France, is forthcoming. It deals with his summer as a student in Tours in 1938, on the eve of World War II.

Reviews

"Smith turns 90 this year, so don't carp about the several previously collected poems in this book. Instead, appreciate the book's exquisite arrangement and the concern of the collection as a whole with linking eras of life and art."—Ray Olson, Booklist

"In this utterly delightful book, variety is matched by insight."—Tom D'Evelyn, Providence Journal

"Few poets go on writing well into old age, but the Louisiana-born William Jay Smith is one of them. Still going strong, his poetry, marked by great technical skill, is witty and satiric, poignant and humane . . . Smith's poetry offers sensuous pleasure and intellectual delight."—Jeffrey Meyers, New Criterion

"Words by the Water is very much recommended reading for poetry fans."—James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review

The Johns Hopkins University Press
Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction

9780801890642 : words-by-the-water-smith
Hardback
96 Pages
$38.00 USD
9780801890659 : words-by-the-water-smith
Paperback / softback
96 Pages
$18.95 USD

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