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About this poet

Maggie Smith was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1977. She received a BA from Ohio Wesleyan University in Ohio and an MFA from Ohio State University.

She is the author of Good Bones (Tupelo Press, 2017), named one of the Best Five Poetry Books of 2017 by the Washington Post and winner of the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards Gold Medal in Poetry. The title poem from this collection has been translated into nearly a dozen languages. In 2017, actress Meryl Streep read “Good Bones” at the Poetry & the Creative Mind Gala at Lincoln Center.

Smith’s poetry is known for its lyrical clarity and sharp rendering of a mother’s relationship to her children. The poet Ada Limón says of her poetry, “Smith’s voice is clear and unmistakable as she unravels the universe, pulls at a loose thread and lets the whole thing tumble around us, sometimes beautiful, sometimes achingly hard.”

Her other books include The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press, 2015), winner of the 2012 Dorset prize and a 2016 Independent Publisher Book Award; and Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press, 2005), winner of the 2003 Benjamin Saltman Award. Smith is also the author of three chapbooks: Disasterology (Dream Horse Press, 2016); The List of Dangers (Kent State/Wick Poetry Series, 2010); and Nesting Dolls (Pudding House, 2005).

A 2011 recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Smith has also received six Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council, two Academy of American Poets Prizes, a Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She works as a freelance writer and editor and serves as a consulting editor to the Kenyon Review. She lives in Bexley, Ohio.

In March 2019, Smith will serve as the guest editor for Poem-a-Day Read more about her curatorial approach for this month.


Good Bones (Tupelo Press, 2017),
The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press, 2015),
Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press, 2005)

Apologue (1)

En la tierra del olvido, donde de nada nadie se acuerda…

In the land where all is forgotten, where no one remembers anything,
birds cut off their beaks to share your sorrow, Little Torn Shoe.
Twice of half a moon throbbed, swollen. I don’t know what
you mourned. This tale was lost among the chestnut trees,
where I found it and brought it to you. Little Bird of Many Colors,
you are the kind who confuses wondering with wandering.
You wonder around. Under your braids, a bright light.
Little Pink Apple, life does not taste as good as it should.
After all, there is always something better. We choose the best
of what is before us, but much is not before us. In the story,
a boy chose the horse called Thought over the one called Wind.
Thinking swiftly, he rode to you. His sack of apples turned
to a sack of rats; his sack of pears to parrots repeating
happy, happy, happy . . . Little Gold Pin, many things we tell
our children are kind but not true. The reverse is also true.
You were crying in the chestnut trees. There was no telling
the leaves from the leaf-shaped spaces between them.
I don’t know what you mourned, Little Winter Deer, the birds
mute and bleeding all around you. I know you want to forget
that last part. And here a cup got broken. Everyone should now go home.

From The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Maggie Smith. Used with permission of the author.

From The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Maggie Smith. Used with permission of the author.

Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith is the author of Good Bones (Tupelo Press, 2017), The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press, 2015), and Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press, 2005). 

by this poet


In what I think is a dream,
I look at some manifestation of the past

& say, I know you’re not real. Someone has to.
As most dream-things do, the past

shapeshifts, reconstitutes itself with new
eyes & a new haircut—the past

made over—& then I forget its name.


Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative

Let us praise the ghost gardens
of Gary, Detroit, Toledo—abandoned

lots where perennials wake
in competent dirt and frame the absence

of a house. You can hear
the sound of wind, which isn’t

wind at all, but leaves touching.
Wind itself can’t speak. It needs another

to chime against, knock around.
Again and