WHAT WE LOOK FOR
by Jared Smith
We look for poems that howl with the wilderness inside of us and then reach out to touch those things that are bigger than anyone can understand. They are poems of the workplace or of the backlots—whether university, or door-to-door salesman, or business office, or vagabond, or soldier, or whatever place you lay your life upon to make a living. The connections within these poems are frequently nonlinear and drawn from the shadows between objects rather than from photographs. They take ones breath away and cause the mind to lose its focus. And the poetry must be real—not posed: vision is more important than craft, though the craft is often needed to carry the vision. It is very hard to make a living in today’s world…to raise a family…to struggle with building the beliefs that shape our culture while feeding oneself and staying alive, and the poet must realize that. If one is to write poetry and put that poetry in front of another person, then one should take poetry very seriously, rather than as merely entertainment or the braggadocio preening and posing one sees so much of. If poetry is to mean anything in our time, it must compete in importance with putting food on the table, multimedia entertainment, and the most passionate sex you can imagine. It must get into the mind of the reader and stay there, growing and haunting until the reader finds new worlds and feelings he or she had not dreamed of before. Not every poem gets there…heck, not many do…but if they don’t at least try, why bother? A poet is more than a writer of poems: a poet is a man or woman who encompasses tremendous knowledge and experience and feels somehow that trying to communicate that experience and knowledge and passion he or she possesses—and to similarly understand the complexity of others and integrate it into oneself—is the most important thing one can do in life. Let’s face it, writing poetry and submitting it around is a bum’s game unless you are really hooked…not much money, not much fame no matter how good you are. Don’t go for the little stuff, but the stuff that speaks from your DNA and has your fingerprints all over it. Maybe we’ll grow from that. Maybe we won’t.
About Jared Smith:
Jared Smith is the author of ten published volumes of poetry, including his Collected Poems: 1971-2011; two multimedia stage adaptations of his work, presented in New York and Chicago; and two CDs. His poems, essays, and literary commentary have appeared in hundreds of journals in this country and abroad, and he has appeared on both NPR and Pacifica networks. He has served on the Editorial Staff of several of the country’s leading literary publications, including Screening CommitteeMember and then Board Member of The New York Quarterly, Contributing Columnist for Home Planet News, and three time Guest Poetry Editor for The Pedestal, as well as serving as the past Poetry Editor for the Colorado Mountain Club’s Trail & Timberline Magazine. He as well remains a member of The Advisory Board of The New York Quarterly. He also served as host of several poetry venues in New York’s Greenwich Village, President of the non-profit Poets & Patrons in Chicago, and is active in a number of local and regional literary and arts organizations. Jared earned his degrees in literature and poetry from New York University, studying under such writers as the late poet and critic M.L. Rosenthal; New York Quarterly founder and first editor William Packard; Library of Congress Adviser Robert Hazel, and poet/translator Walter James Miller, among others. He has taught at New York University’s Reading Institute, La Guardia Community College, and Illinois Institute of Technology. He also served 25 years in adult education and basic research, holding executive and research positions with a private consulting company, a major international research laboratory, and Argonne National Laboratory, as well as being an adviser to several White House Commissions under President Clinton.Jared resides right outside Boulder, Colorado in the foothills of The Rockies, where he spends much of his time in a rustic log cabin in Roosevelt National Forest. He travels, lectures, and gives readings at colleges, universities, libraries, book shops and similar venues throughout the U.S. His website is www.jaredsmith.info