“When I was putting the application together, I asked a friend what poems I should include,” Smith says. “He told me to submit my most honest poems, the poems that really reflect me and my work.
“Some of poems I submitted were pretty vulnerable, so I hope that openness, plus my craft, spoke to the judges.”
As an associate professor at Lesley, his areas of expertise include creative writing, poetry, popular culture and gender.
“As a teacher and a writer, I hone both crafts every day, and am committed to helping my writing and literature students enter into the public experience of what is often perceived as a solitary undertaking,” says Smith, who holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Pittsburgh.
We were eager to hear more about Smith and his acclaimed verse, as well as some of the elements of his fellowship.
You won $12,000. Do they just cut a check to you, no strings attached? Or does the money have to be spent for a specific purpose?
The money was actually deposited to my bank account! It is "no strings," but the intent is to support an artist in their creative projects. I hope use it to assist me in future projects.
What to you is unique about poetry as a means of expression? I like that poetry can take different forms, which makes me able to explore the best way to express what I want to say. Spending time revising and experimenting with forms is as much a part of the process as the initial writing.
How did you apply for the Fellowship? Did you submit a number of your poems?
Yes, I had to submit a sample of poems. The whole process is anonymous, so the judges only have the poems to guide them as they make decisions.
Do you have common themes in your poetry that you keep coming back to?
I find myself returning to what it means to be a gay man from a rural, working class environment. As I get older, I also find myself investigating my childhood more.
How long have you been writing poetry? How long have you been writing poetry seriously?
I wrote my first poem in 1990. I remember because I still have it. It is terrible, so nobody will ever see it.
I got serious about poetry in college when I studied with the then-Poet Laureate of West Virginia, Irene McKinney. I began my MFA program in 1996, so that is probably when I really invested.