In general, I have an allergic reaction to writing personal info for the sake of “being personal.” There is a poetry journal somewhere out there in which my bio-line reads something like, “L .R. Smith writes poetry and figures that the rest is nobody’s damn business.” Not one of my finer moments. Fortunately, I now carry an epi-pen for just such occasions as these. So, let me give myself a stab… Right then.
Circuitous, but not infelicitous. That’s the route thus far. I wanted to do voices for cartoons when I was little, but having no idea where to start with that, decided upon plan B: become a poet. Poets, however, need day jobs, so I thought I’d become an academic and write in my spare time. We should probably wait a moment for the academics to stop laughing, catch their breath, and crawl back onto their chairs.
To continue, I put my doctorate in Medieval Studies to good use teaching for several years until I decided that if I was going to get up at 5 a.m. every morning to write, it had damn well better be to write what I wanted and not to work on lecture notes. So, I moved over to “the dark side” of college administration. While I’ve never regretted that switch, I do enjoy the occasional opportunity to teach and share the material I love so much with students who think of the Middle Ages as a historical and aesthetic hiccup between the respective glories of Antiquity and the Renaissance.
While the stories arise from my work in Anglo-Saxon literature and history occupy the majority of my time, I do still write poetry and other things. I’m currently working on a series of poems based (for lack of a better word) on Mendelssohn’s Lieder Ohne Worte. Scriabin has always been more my style than the Romantics, but these pieces by Mendelssohn have, in the last years, become a sort of touchstone back to my mother who died when I was young. This was the style of thing I remember her playing, and the practicing and interpreting of these Lieder has opened new “conversations” with her.
Any more blathering and I’ll need to stab myself with the epi-pen again.
The following poem “Apple Seeds” was published in a lovely little UK journal Things which is now regrettably defunct.
i have been tasting apple seeds,
holding them on the tip of my tongue.
only the merest hint of the fruit lingers
faintly about the seed.
others lie scattered about the apple’s
carcass heart as if expectant,
conscious of the possibilities held
within their burnished reticence.
one seed lies nicked by the quartering edge,
its white core opaque and suggestive.
the skin peels off reluctantly,
and i find aunt murtie’s elephant
in the hollow of my palm again.
after all these years in my memory
the woman has shrunk until she’s as small
as the treasured ivory elephant.
no larger than the moon on my thumb,
someone had brought it back from india
in the red bean where it majestically resided.
every time we visited, my sisters and i asked
for that minute pachyderm.
now, years after — aunt dead,
magic bean and occupant lost —
for a brief moment a naked apple seed
places upon the woman’s fingers,
the fragile ivory memory of a child.