The poet Thomas R. Smith visited this morning to go over some proof pages and to answer some questions I had about design possibilities for his forthcoming collection, The Glory. While we worked inside, winter held sway outside. The weather and the visit put me in mind of an earlier collection of poems by Smith, one published ten years ago, Winter Hours. Of Smith’s numerous books, this might be the most overlooked.
The design is as stark as a January parking lot at midnight in a blizzard. A lot of white space, a minimal amount of ornamentation. The author has playfully referred to the book as his “White Album.”
The book itself consists of forty poems. Each poem is seven lines long. Written during the winter of 1998-1999, these small poems lodge some daily aspect of our yearly travail through this often difficult season. Fittingly, there are a fair number of grim realities, but I think the uplifting surprises win out, glittering snow, bright sunlight, warm company. Here’s a poem that contains a little wishful thinking during our current week of below zero temperatures:
BEGINNING TO PUT WINTER BEHIND US
The sun comes out with a flash, as if taking
earth’s photo. The sky preens its blue feathers
on the telephone line, and sings. One can hear
a drone of lawnmowers, from the future….
Why don’t I feel happier? A small, weak hand
is tugging at my sleeve, the way an old person
who can no longer speak up says, “I’m still here….”