August 7, 2020

Good Bones’ poet Maggie Smith visits NCC


Silence fell on Lipkin Theatre, as award-winning poet Maggie Smith read excerpts from her work, in celebration of Len Roberts Poetry Day on March 27.

Drawing on her books, “Good Bones”, “Well Speaks of Its Own Poison” and “Lamp of the Body,” Smith paused between poems to explain the inspiration for them.
Some of her poetry speaks of the reality and negativity of the life that people live.
“The world is about 50 percent terrible, and that’s a conservative estimate” is a line from Smith’s famous poem, “Good Bones.”

She spoke of poems that are unconventional, which she calls “nonnets.”

“They’re similar to sonnets, just not as crisp,” she explained. “Each one of them is inspired by the questions my daughter asks me while we are in the car together.”

Smith told the audience that her daughter was a big inspiration toward the end of her first book, “Well Speaks of Its Own Poison,” because that’s when her daughter was born.

When asked about the moment she realized she wanted to write poetry for living, Smith answered that she didn’t.  

“I don’t do poetry for a living,” she said. “I’m also a freelance editor and writer, but I probably knew I wanted to be a poet in college.”

Noting the hardest part about talking to college students is the pressure of them needing to know what they want to do with their lives, she quipped that she still does not know what she wants to be when she grows up.

After reading her famous poem, “Good Bones,” she recalled her poem being read by actress Meryl Streep at New York’s Lincoln Center.

“I didn’t even know she was going to read it,” Smith said. “No one told me because they thought she was going to change her mind.”

Streep didn’t read the poem as Smith intended it to be read.

“She made people laugh, and I don’t find a good poem funny,” Smith said. “But it was really cool. I just didn’t know she was going to read it.”

Another Smith poem was featured on an episode of CBS’s “Madam Secretary.”

“I was aware it was going to be read on the show, but I had no idea that the episode was going to be called ‘Good Bones’ until it was released,” Smith said.

“I think the best part about my poem being on the show, was that it’s my mom’s favorite TV show, and it’s now a moment we share.”

Smith, who has taught Creative Writing at Gettysburg University, holds a B.A. from Ohio Wesleyan University and an MFA from The Ohio State University.

When asked why she decided to write poetry, Smith joked, saying that, “It’s the only thing I’m any good at.”

She told the audience that poetry was the only thing she felt 100 percent while doing, and it is something she will always love doing.


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