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The World below the Window: Poems 1937-1997 (Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction) Hardcover – April 7, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From 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, Univ. of Delaware
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction
  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press (April 7, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801858593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801858598
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,716,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 9 people found the following review helpful By on May 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I know William Jay Smith is a respected poet, but I found his poems to be lacking something. His style seems to be stuck in adult mode, but with children's-poem-style. I'm probably not making myself very clear here, but I didn't find myself hating the book. I just didn't like it, and keep seem to work myself up into saying much about the book. And that should say it all.
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