A Poetry Reading with NEA Fellowship Winner Maggie Smith

| December 3, 2010 | 3 Comments

Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith

Bexley poet Maggie Smith remembers going through what she calls an “angsty” period in high school, when, she says, she wrote a lot of poetry that was “not really any good.” But she got over it.

Way over it.

Smith was recently the only Ohio author to be awarded a 2011 creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA award is the most recent in a string of accolades bestowed on Smith’s poetry and honors her yet unpublished book Hush Now, which follows her earlier published collections, The Lamp of the Body and The List of Dangers.

In writing Hush Now, Smith says she branched out from the more or less autobiographical path her earlier work had followed and incorporated influences of European and Latin American folk tales into visually striking, deeply evocative free verse.

Smith joined me yesterday at the WOSU studios for an impromptu poetry reading and to talk about her life and the inspirations for her work.

The Columbus native and alumna of Ohio Wesleyan and Ohio State Universities told me she has no idea what prompted her to start writing in the first place.

“I really had a pretty normal, wonderful childhood growing up in Westerville,” Smith said. “There really wasn’t anything that was an impetus for me beginning to write. Why my sisters played soccer and I wrote poems, there is no real rhyme or reason to it.”

And even if the self-described “list-maker” had not noted her own sensitivity to the sights and sounds around her, you could guess it from the cinematic character of her poems — garlands of colorful images that create worlds as rich and thickly layered as the one we live in.

Smith reads two of her poems here, “Apologue (1)” – which she calls “an experiment” – and “The List of Dangers,” a reflection on her move to suburbia as a young girl.

She also talks about her almost subliminal method of compiling poetry collections.

And in case you’re wondering whether or not Smith plans to publish her NEA fellowship-winning collection Hush Now, the answer is, yes.

“I think it’s finished now. I’m ready to call it done,” Smith said. “And now that the NEA has honored me by validating that work and telling me, ‘These poems are good,’ I feel like it’s really ready to start sending out.”

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