GOLDENROD: POEMS, Maggie Smith. One Signal Publishers / Atria (an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.), 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020, 2021, 116 pages, $20 hardcover. https://www.simonandschuster.com.
I discovered Maggie Smith through her poetry, so I was surprised when a friend recommended the audio of Smith’s new memoir, You Could Make this Place Beautiful; and, when another friend—hearing that I was writing a blogpost—said, “Maggie Smith, the memoirist?”
Yes, as I’m finding out, but she’s also an award-winning, acclaimed poet.
This month, I have found myself categorizing my favorite poets into groups:
1. The sort of poet who makes me want to hang up my writing cape.
2. The sort of poet whose poems I wish I had written.
3. The sort of poet who makes me race to my desk and begin writing a poem.
Smith is in the last category. She writes about children, about relationships, about living in Ohio (in the U. S., on earth), about aging (though she’s only 46!), and about animals (see “During Lockdown, I Let the Dog Sleep in My Bed Again”). Always with a light, deft touch, always laced with humor, if also regret. So human.
So this morning I wrote one of her poems into my journal, then listed five possible poems I might write. You can join me, your assignment: to write a poem revealing the underside of a clichéd expression.
In the Grand Scheme of Things
It sounds like someone wound up the wrens
and let them go, let them chatter across your lawn
like cheap toys, and from here an airplane
seems to fly only from one tree to another, barely
chalking a line between them. We say the naked eye
as if the eye could be clothed, as if it isn’t the world
that refuses to undress unless we turn our backs.
It shows us what it chooses, nothing more,
and it’s not waxing pastoral. There is too much
now at stake. The skeletal rattle you hear
at the window could be only the hellion roses
in the wind, their thorns etching the glass,
but it could be bones. The country we call ours
isn’t, and it’s full of them. Every year you dig
that goddamn rose bush from the bed, spoon it
from soil like a tumor, and every year it grows back
thick and wild. We say in the grand scheme of things
as if there were one. We say that’s not how
the world works as if the world works.
If only I could make it look so simple.
And, by the way, Maggie Smith is an award-winning, brilliant memoirist as well as a poet. Read more at https://maggiesmithpoet.com, and all over the place.