published two collections of poetry in 2021: Catalogs for Food Lovers and Glenn Danzig Carries Cat Litter. His other books include the forthcoming fiction collection Transit (2022), the essay collection Dowsing and Science (2011), and the children’s picture book The Best Mariachi in the World. Smith works as an editor in Washington, DC, where he lives with his wife Paula Van Lare and their rescue animals.
Q:1. How did you decide on the order of the poems in the book?
That’s an intriguing question, especially since the poems were written in a far different order over the course of two decades.
I chose the first poem as an introduction to the book, to myself, and to the book’s tone. That poem, a variation on Edward Lear’s “How Pleasant to Know Mr Lear,” attempts to place the collection within a tradition of light verse and offer some sense of what will follow.
The first numbered section is my effort to establish a measure of credibility by taking on some of the big themes like frailty, blunted ambitions, transience and death. I hadn’t thought about how much death appears in the first section until a reader of the manuscript pointed it out to me, but I hope I’ve captured the funny side of the topic.
The first section also attempts to establish credibility by presenting a variety of forms including epigrams, villanelles, a kyrielle, and rhymed couplets. This foreshadows the range of possibilities ahead and tries not to bore the reader with too much of any particular form or length.
The second numbered section proceeds from the hope that the previous section has succeeded, giving me permission to move on to some of my more idiosyncratic interests like the natural world, fancy food catalogs and the absurdities of both language and human nature.
Although the sections don’t have names, the third section could have been called “Firing Back at the Canon.” The underlying (if unwise) assumption is that I now have permission to sit at the grownups’ table and have a little fun at their expense. One set of short poems violently summarizes classics, while another consists of “tailgaters”–couplets where a canonical line is followed by a new rhyming line that changes the topic. Several of the poems are flat-out parodies of poems by Frost, Larkin, and Thomas. The collection’s final poem, a parody of Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for death,” is an imagined reader’s review of the collection–a final note of self-parody.
The book can be purchased from the publisher, Kelsay Books, at the book’s page (https://kelsaybooks.com/products/catalogs-for-food-lovers) and on Amazon (UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Catalogs-Food-Lovers-J-D-Smith/dp/1639800417/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1M5BOXB0HCVIM&keywords=catalogs+for+food+lovers&qid=1636731788&s=books&sprefix=catalogs+for%2Caps%2C220&sr=1-1; US: https://www.amazon.com/Catalogs-Food-Lovers-J-D-Smith/dp/1639800417/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=catalogs+for+food+lovers&qid=1636731752&qsid=130-1476403-8762509&s=books&sr=1-2&sres=1639800417%2CB09LH2L2R8%2C0984692193%2C1465485031%2C1914207750%2C169145267X%2C1597113573%2C1648450814%2C1846149444%2C0789334410%2C1683839005%2C133819366X%2C3956795458%2CB001FA0P86%2C1641527420%2C1523504455&srpt=ABIS_BOOK; Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Catalogs-Food-Lovers-J-D-Smith/dp/1639800417/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=catalog+for+food+lovers&qid=1636731942&s=books&sr=1-1
More answers tomorrow.