Saturday, March 14, 2015
To the Dark Angels by Jared Smith
Review by Doug Holder
Jared Smith is a poet who has an intimate knowledge of the failure of language; yet he still writes, and writes powerfully. In his lead poem, “Shivering Between Beings,” in his accomplished new collection: To the Dark Angels, he acknowledges this with poetic resignation and appreciation: “What we build endures/from the fleet-footed animals/grained grasses/spaces between stars/endures beyond understanding/white within darkness/in the primeval without words.” This is a theme that reappears throughout the book. Smith, who has a great affinity for the working stiff, the “Hey, Joe what do you know?” everyday guy trying to make the daily nut, performs his work with words despite all its limitations. He punches in for the countless eight hour shifts, and puts in the hard work needed to convey beauty and truth.
Although many of the poems here are focused on nature (Smith now lives in the hills outside Denver), Smith was a resident of New York City when he first really cut his teeth in the literary world, and knows how to capture the ethereal beauty of the cityscape. In his poem “Back Briefly to the City” he conveys the allure, the endless possibility platter, and the dream New York offers. Here you have a picture of the poet pining for a drink, and meditating on a vision of a cab as it disappears into the mystery of the night:That’s why I've come here now, it seems, but I’d like a drink first/ and to choose among the many sleek women in their furs with/all the secrets of taxi cabs run out into the city night on sequined feet.”
Smith rails against the buzz, the byte, the incessant demands of the cell phone, the quick fix, and the fragments of conversation that transpire over a wireless world. To this poet, to create art is a slow and contemplative process:
“... It takes raw youth
and time to work the patterns, shape clay
with colors carrying the patina of meaning
a time that lingers between the workings
of grandfather clocks and cell phones,
accumulating in the dust of empty rooms.
No instant messages, no quick network
comes from this where time stands, still,
just a slow communication that enfolds.”
Smith wants to impart a message to the reader, and he wants he or she to take notice—before they send his or her next text, or email, before they don their headphones-- before they shut themselves off to the world.