Recent Work By J.D. Smith

In an Atrium

By J.D. Smith


What kind of flamingo is that
standing there?

It is the kind
whose feathers do not blush
from eating pink shrimp.

It is the short-necked, broad-backed kind.

The kind that is, in fact, a crane,
one that’s light brown
and made not of flesh, but wicker
that portrays no single specimen,
which has its other places to be,
but the ideal crane, the archetypal crane
whose flight is said to represent transcendence,
whose pairing is an emblem of sign of fidelity,
bearing some message we would send ourselves.

This freighted flock of one
will not be rendered as a lawn ornament,
outlined in neon,
printed on a Hawaiian shirt.

One cannot ask all this
of a single flamingo.

So who are you, and where do you get off thinking you’re a poet?

I’m a regular guy in a lot of ways, and a writer friend’s then-wife once called me “pretty normal for a writer.” I’m a first-generation college student who grew up in Aurora, Illinois and went to public schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

I am willing to go public on calling myself a poet because I’ve put a lot of time into reading and writing and rewriting. Some of that was in a creative writing program, but a lot of it has been outside of any academic framework. It’s not for me to say how good I am or will ever be, but at this point I’ve probably put in the 10,000 hours of practice that Malcolm Gladwell mentions in Outliers as being essential for success.  Practice for a poet, though, isn’t like a pianist’s work on scales or a basketball player’s work on free throws. It involves a lot of letting the mind wander much of the time, even when far from a desk or a piece of paper.

What are you doing when you’re not a poet?

To paraphrase the biographical notes of wealthier people, I divide my time between work and home, and sometimes I’m trying to write in other genres. Then there are the separate jobs of submitting work and promoting the work that I do publish.  In the middle of that awkward phase between birth and death, I’m in the midst of a particularly awkward phase of needing to engage in marketing and scheduling but not having a publicist or agent to do these things for me. This could go on for quite a while. Say, would you like to be my publicist?

Um. Um. Hell no! I’m far too much of an introvert for that.

You can have a big cut of my writerly earnings.

Nice try, pal. So what do you do when you’re not writing at all?

I take my dog on long walks, which overlaps with letting my mind wander.  I read a lot, which sometimes leads to acquiring lots of geeky knowledge about topics like deep sea life or cheese. I share much of this with my wife.

Undoubtedly a good and patient woman.  This may be a good time to more questions about your writing. What are you working on now?

There are always individual poems at various stages of completion, and a couple of loosely organized sequences of poems. I am also chipping away at the first draft of a crime novel and starting to put together an e-book of crime stories for purchase at a low, low price from at least one online vendor later in the year.

And what would you like to work on in the future?

Interviewing people might be a good time. How’s it working out for you?

My firmer plans include revising about 80,000 words of essays and trying to write another play. And there are always more poems to write. I want to be an industry or, failing that, the Swiss Army knife of American letters.