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About this poet

William Jay Smith was born in 1918 in Winnfield, Louisiana. He studied at Washington University, Columbia University, and at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. Smith served as a poetry consultant to the Library of Congress (the position now known as the U.S. Poet Laureate) from 1968 until 1970, and has been a member of The Academy of Arts and Letters since 1975, as well as a former vice-president for literature. Smith, noted for his translations, has won awards from both the French Academy, the Swedish Academy, and the Hungarian government. Including his most recent collection, The Cherokee Lottery (Curbstone Press, 2000), he has written ten collections of poetry, two of which were nominated for the National Book Award. Smith was a poet in residence at Williams College from 1959-1967, Chairman of the Writing Division of the School of Arts at Columbia University from 1973 until 1975, and currently is the Professor Emeritus of English at Hollins College. Smith makes his home between Cummington, Massachusetts, and Paris, France.

Winter Morning

William Jay Smith, 1918
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,
Rattling the windows,
Rustling around and below our bed
So that we rode
Over wild water
In a white ship breasting the waves.
We rode through the night
On green, marbled
Water, and, half-waking, watched
The white, eroded peaks of icebergs
Sail past our windows;
Rode out the night in that north country,
And awoke, the house buried in snow,
Perched on a
Chill promontory, a
Giant's tooth
In the mouth of the cold valley,
Its white tongue looped frozen around us,
The trunks of tall birches
Revealing the rib cage of a whale
Stranded by a still stream;
And saw, through the motionless baleen of their branches,
As if through time,
Light that shone
On a landscape of ivory,
A harbor of bone.

From The World Below the Window: Poems 1937-1997 by William Jay Smith, page 185. Copyright © 1998 by William Jay Smith. Reprinted with the permission of Johns Hopkins University. All rights reserved.

William Jay Smith

William Jay Smith

William Jay Smith was born in 1918 in Winnfield, Louisiana. He studied

by this poet

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.

His chin is quite smooth and uncleft
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 screen door bangs, and it sounds so funny-- 
There he is in a shower of gold;
His pockets are stuffed with folding money,
His lips are blue,
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.

And will be there as long as I think that I 
Can throw the window open on the sky, 
A touch of geranium pink in the tail of my eye;

As long as I think I see