William Jay Smith. Courtesy The Book Haven.

William Jay Smith
Born April 22 1918 (1918-04-22) (age 99)
Winnfield, Louisiana, USA
Occupation Poet
Nationality United States United States
Alma mater Washington University in St. Louis
Columbia University
Oxford University

William Jay Smith (born April 22, 1918) is an American poet who wrote both adult's and children's poetry.[1] He was appointed the 19th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1968 to 1970.[2]

Life Edit

William Jay Smith was born in Winnfield, Louisiana.[1] He was brought up at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, south of St. Louis. Smith received his A.B. and M.A. from Washington University in St. Louis, and continued his studies at Columbia University, and at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

In 1947 he married the poet Barbara Howes, and they lived for a time in England and Italy. They had two sons, David Smith, and Gregory. They divorced in the mid-1960s.

Smith was a poet in residence at Williams College from 1959–1967, taught at Columbia University from 1973 until 1975. He serves as the Professor Emeritus of English literature at Hollins University.

As of 2008, he lives in houses located in both Cummington, Massachusetts and Paris, France.[3]

Smith is the author of ten collections of poetry of which two were finalists for the National Book Award.

He has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1975.

His work has appeared in Harper's Magazine,[4] The New York Review of Books,[5]


The Atlantic: "When the whole history of twentieth-century American poetry is eventually written, it will surely be revealed that despite the apparently larger and often noisier triumphs of "open" forms, astonishingly good verse that we can call "metrical" or "formal" has continued to be written by some of the country's best poets – Smith himself along with his contemporaries and near-contemporaries Richard Wilbur, John Hollander, and Anthony Hecht. That Smith has written poems replete with rhythm, rhyme, wit, and melody – what Louise Bogan called "the pleasures of formal poetry," in an essay by the same name – is cause for celebration, homage, and gratitude."[6]

New York Times: "The far-reaching themes and variety of styles in William Jay Smith's poetry prove that commonplace ideas and everyday activities can be reinvented by lyrical language that enlightens and entertains the reader. His magical "Collected Poems" span a half-century of his life and the life of the nation, adding up to a literary and social history of our times in verse."[7]


  • 1945 Young Poets prize, Poetry
  • 1964 Ford fellowship for drama
  • 1970 Henry Bellamann Major award
  • 1972 Loines award
  • 1972, 1995 National Endowment for the Arts grant
  • 1975, 1989 National Endowment for the Humanities grant
  • 1978 Gold Medal of Labor (Hungary)
  • 1980 New England Poetry Club Golden Rose Award
  • 1982 Ingram Merrill Foundation grant
  • 1990 California Children's Book and Video Awards recognition for excellence (pre-school and toddlers category), for Ho for a Hat!
  • 1991 medal (médaille de vermeil) for service to the French language, French Academy
  • 1993 Pro Cultura Hungarica medal
  • twice a nominee for the National Book Award in poetry
  • 1997 René Vásquez Díaz prize, Swedish Academy



  • Poems. New York: Banyan Press, 1947.
  • Celebration at Dark. New York: Farrar, Straus, 1950.
  • Snow. Schlosser Paper, 1953.
  • The Stork: A Poem announcing the safe arrival of Gregory Smith. Caliban Press, 1954.
  • Typewriter Birds. Caliban Press, 1954.
  • Poems, 1947-1957. Boston: Little, Brown, 1957.
  • Two Poems. Mason Hill Press, 1959.
  • Prince Souvanna Phouma: An exchange between Richard Wilbur and William Jay Smith (with Richard Wilbur). Chapel Press, 1963.
  • The Tin Can, and other poems.New York: Delacorte, 1966.
    • title poem published as The Tin Can. Roslyn, NY: Stone House Press, 1988.
  • New and Selected Poems. New York: Delacorte , 1970.
  • A Rose for Katherine Anne Porter. New York: Albondocani Press, 1970.
  • At Delphi: For Allen Tate on his seventy-fifth birthday, 19 November 1974. Chapel Press, 1974.
  • Venice in the Fog. Greensboro, NC: Unicorn Press, 1975.
  • Verses on the Times (with Richard Wilbur). Gutenberg Press, 1978.
  • Journey to the Dead Sea (illustrated by David Newbert). Omaha, NE: Abbatoir, 1979.
  • The Tall Poets. Winston-Salem, NC: Palaemon Press, 1979.
  • The Traveler's Tree, New and selected poems (illustrated by Jacques Hnizdovsky). New York: Persea Books, 1980.
  • Plain Talk: Epigrams, epitaphs, satires, nonsense, occasional, concrete, and quotidian poems. New York: Center for Book Arts, 1988.
  • Journey to the Interior. Stone House Press, 1988.
  • Collected Poems, 1939-1989. New York: Macmillan, 1990.
  • The Cyclist. Stone House Press, 1995.
  • The World below the Window: Poems, 1937-1997. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.
  • The Cherokee Lottery: A sequence of poems. Willimantec, CT: Curbstone Press, 2000.
  • The Girl in Glass: Love poems. New York: Bootes and Company, 2002.


  • The Straw Market (comedy, produced at Hollins University, 1965). Blackbird (Virgina Commonwealth University), Spring 2006.
  • Army Brat: A dramatic narrative for three foices (play based upon Smith's memoir), produced in New York City, 1980.


  • The Spectra Hoax (criticism). Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1961.
    • Ashland, OR: Story Line Press, 2000.
  • Herrick. New York: Dell, 1962.
  • The Streaks of the Tulip: Selected criticism. New York: Delacorte, 1972.
  • Army Brat: A memoir. New York: Persea Books, 1980.


  • Laughing Time (illustrated by Juliet Kepes). Boston: Little, Brown, 1955
  • revised and enlarged as Laughing Time: Nonsense poems (illustrated by Fernando Krahn). New York: Farrar, Straus, 1990.
  • Boy Blue's Book of Beasts (illustrated by Juliet Kepes). Boston: Little, Brown, 1957.
  • Puptents and Pebbles: A nonsense ABC (illustrated by Juliet Kepes). Boston: Little, Brown, 1959.
  • Typewriter Town (writer and illustrator). New York: Dutton, 1960.
  • What Did I See? (illustrated by Don Almquist). New York: Crowell-Collier, 1962.
  • My Little Book of Big and Little (Little Dimity, Big Gumbo, Big and Little) (3 volumes, illustrated by Don Bolognese), New York: Macmillan, 1963.
  • Ho for a Hat! (illustrated by Ivan Chermayeff). Boston: Little, Brown, 1964
    • revised edition (illustrated by Lynn Munsinger). Boston: Joy Street Books, 1989.
  • If I Had a Boat (illustrated by Don Bolognese). New York: Macmillan, 1966.
  • Mr. Smith, and other nonsense (illustrated by Don Bolognese). New York: Delacorte, 1968.
  • Around My Room, and other poems (illustrated by Don Madden). New York: Lancelot, 1969.
  • Grandmother Ostrich, and other poems (illustrated by Don Madden). New York: Lancelot, 1969.
  • Laughing Time, and other poems (illustrated by Don Madden). New York: Lancelot, 1969.
  • The Key. Children's Book Council, 1982.
  • Birds and Beasts (illustrated by Jacques Hnizdovsky). Boston: Godine, 1990.
  • Big and Little (illustrated by Don Bolognese). HOnesdale, PA: Wordsong, 1991.
  • Here Is My Heart: Love poems (illustrated by Jane Dyer). Boston: Little, Brown, 1999.
  • Around My Room (illustrated by Erik Blegvad). New York: Farrar, Straus, 2000.
  • Hey Diddle: A riddle. Delray Beach, FL: Winslow Press, 2002.


  • Romualdo Romano, Scirocco. New York: Farrar, Straus, 1951.
  • Valery Larbaud, Poems of a Multimillionaire. New York: Bonacio & Saul / Grove, 1955.
  • Jules Laforgue, Selected Writings (translated & edited). New York: Grove, 1956.
  • Elsa Beskow, The Children of the Forest (illustrated by Beskow). New York: Delacorte, 1970.
  • Two Plays by Charles Bertin: Christopher Columbus / Don Juan. Minnesota University Press, 1970.
  • Lennart Hellsing, The Pirate Book (illustrated by Poul Ströyer). New York: Delacorte, 1972.
  • Kornei Chukovsky, The Telephone (translated with Max Hayward; illustrated by Blair Lent). New York: Delacorte, 1977.
  • Artur Lundkvist, Agadir (translated with Leif Sjoeberg). Pittsburgh, PA: International Poetry Forum, 1979; Athens, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1980.
  • Thorkild Bjoernvig, The Pact: My friendship with Isak Dinesen (translated with Ingvar Schousboe). Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1983.
  • Dutch Interior: Postwar Poetry of the Netherlands and Flanders (translated & edited with James S. Holmes). New York: Columbia University Press, 1984.
  • Jules Laforgue, Moral Tales. New York: New Directions, 1985.
  • Henry Martinson, Wild Bouquet: Nature poems (translated with Leif Sjoeberg). Bookmark Press, 1985.
  • Collected Translations: Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese (poetry). St. Paul, MN: New Rivers Press, 1985.
  • Sandor Weoeres, Eternal Moment: Selected poems (translated (with Edwin Morgan & others). St. Paul, MN: New Rivers Press, 1988.
  • Tchicaya U Tam'Si, The Madman and the Medusa (translated with wife, Sonja Haussmann Smith; edited by A. James Arnold & Kandioura Drame). Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1989.
  • Jules Laforgue, Berlin: The city and the court. Turtle Point Books, 1996.
  • Gyula Illyés, What You Have Almost Forgotten: Selected poems (translated & edited with introduction). Willimantec, CT: Curbstone Press, 1999.


  • Children and Poetry: A selective, annotated bibliography (edited with Virginia Haviland). Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1969.
    • revised edition, 1979.
  • Witter Bynner, Light Verse and Satires. New York: Farrar, Straus, 1976.
  • A Green Place: Modern poems (illustrated by Hnizdovsky). New York: Delacorte , 1982.
  • Brazilian Poetry (edited with Emanuel Brasil). New York: Harper, 1984.
  • Nina Cassian, Life Sentence: Selected poems. New York: Norton, 1990.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[8]

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

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