This new collection of poetry by Jared Smith is infused with images of light and mortality. Smith, a veteran of the small press scene is erudite, urbane, yet as down-to-earth as the late Conceptualist poet Charles Reznikoff. His work showcases his wide and eclectic reading, but he never seems to be doing it for show, but rather to tip his Stetson hat to the many great artists who preceded him. I particularly enjoyed Smith’s poem “Father,” in which he captures the enigma that all fathers are in one way or another to their sons, and how after awhile we all see the old patriarchs staring back at us in our shaving mirrors.
“The aurora borealis blows through the cells of my bone,
igniting them so that they are torn apart and scattered in the solar wind.
What was it that you wanted to achieve? Why
did we wear our tight shirt collars to expensive hotels
or spend long years sweating our fears into foreign sheets?
I am older now then you were on that day
when you lay down in a blueberry patch and died
on vacation beneath a Minnesota sky.”
Like Auden, Smith realizes that death comes in the most banal of ways, and places. To quote the old master, death is not always appointed to some dramatic backdrop:
“Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
In Smith’s poem “Stroke” a piece of well-done pot roast could bring the poet’s demise:
“ A piece of fat in the artery
The complexity of patterns
recognition of symmetries
echoing of histories;
a pot roast
becomes a blinding light.”
Certainly food for thought.
Ibbetson Update/ Doug Holder/ Somerville, Mass./ April 2007