My name is Joseph T. Smith. I have been writing in some form or another for two decades now. I feel like a sweetened old soul. Experience has shaped me like a circle. Poetry is my verbal salvation. Words have seemed to pour out of me like water molecules since my educative years. I learned how economics can be applied to any length of poetry. You don’t have to exude extreme style, only more substance to create.
Anyhow, thank you for perusing this interview with Christina & myself. I appreciate any miscellaneous feedback.
[Joseph Smith is from New York’s Lower Hudson Valley, and he’s a fascinating individual who prefers cappuccino over standard coffee and mystery over the spotlight. I firstly became acquainted with his poetry via Compass Rose, a Raven Publishing anthology edited by R.L. Jones and Gloria J. Wimberley. A portion of Smith’s “Road to Somewhere” landed as a quote on the back cover, and an Amazon review references “surrealistic vistas” within his poetry, so I had to read more…]
Welcome, Joseph! I was just enjoying your “Pish Posh & Blue” from page twelve of Compass Rose:
Whenever the song vibrates into
an ear of her choice
there is a tiny voice that freshens the memory
it cuts through the darkness and the high
drama that persists there
it unleashes a cruel spell which the
afternoon has been afflicted with
spoiled by the pleasure of everything else
fertile records strewn over the cold, baseless floor
a second before the needle is inserted
the sound of a brief sigh by the sensitive artist
too much heaviness of words, not enough soul to taste
this elegant apartment used to be loved somewhere
a strand of yellow hair on the gray border
a patch of green outside the garden
there used to be an embrace of two
now there are none to add
brown memories worn like old leather
the scent of a faint cologne in the closet
where the emptiness resides like our dreams
the sight of invisible furniture
marks on the surface, a position of nobility
close the door that creaks
a reminder of how the newness fades
like a kiss on antique paper
I find myself wanting more of what is between the lines or behind the scenes (yet we know that the blank spaces are intriguing). If you were to pen a preamble for this poem or your poetry in general, what would it say?
I believe that there are things which are intangible like dreams & thoughts. It is a surreal place indeed. Sometimes the ideas flow like a controlled river. Inspiration can be daunting. The unconsciousness is not regulated by what is created by words. I don’t consider myself a modern writer. I’ve always been entranced by traditional, classic authors. Robert Frost was the first poet I connected with as an impressionable high school English Lit student. “Mending Wall” shaped my future. I often wonder about how unique or special as a human race we really are.
It’s unfortunate that good fences often really do make good neighbors and it’s fitting that “The Mending Wall” speaks deeply to societal outsiders. Poets who write objectively benefit from the outside view, and their subjective work seems almost always to be a longing of some sort. How does where you stand manifest in your poetry?
Well, I do think that certain boundaries need to be explored further. Social commentary speaks to the common people, the ones who feel disenfranchised or segregated somehow. The idea of a wall that separates is acceptable to certain thinkers. If you inquired to me decades ago, I would be more inclined to feel as a social idealist might. Now, the state of international affairs is quite disturbing. I just comment on what is meaningful for me. I am not the authoritarian police, only an acute observer. I don’t try to enforce opinions on others.
Understood. You openly discuss your diagnosis of schizophrenia and how it impacts your poetry: “Would I have been a writer if not for my disease?” Would you say that it inspires you to write, or do you feel that your poetry is an innate skill beyond schizophrenia which is then shaped by it?
Hmmm. That’s a fascinating analogy. I do believe my disease has enhanced certain neurological receptors. I’ve always been creative whether it was drawing, writing stories, music reviews, or poems as a child to adulthood. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed after college that there was a name for my condition. I’d like to believe that my poetry skill is innate. Schizophrenia only magnified what was wrong with my brain. It also accelerated my creativity as well. So Yeah, it’s interchangeable.
That’s interesting; thank you. What is the primary message about schizophrenia within the mind of a poet that you would like readers to understand?
I would like readers to understand that a disease does not define you no matter what you are afflicted with. You are not a label for science to identify us. You can attain your dreams. It might take years of sacrifice, diligence, & goodness. It is possible. Strive to achieve. Believe.
Very nice. Having read your “story,” you describe yourself as a romantic. You also say, “I debate with myself how my words affect people. I question how it makes me feel.” What is it that you hope to accomplish by sharing your words?
I hope that other readers won’t feel excluded by their romantic notions. Being a romantic in a modern society seems like a lifetime of aloneness. There are times when you wonder about personal happiness & self-worth. Love is the reward. Romantics tend to be more introverted, introspective, & attached to Experience.
It’s difficult for romantics to not attach. Do you feel that your poetry is a form of release of the Self from attachments, or is it an attempt to immortally marry the two?
I definitely haven’t succeeded in detaching myself emotionally. I have been told to leave my worries on a shelf. I wish it was that simple. Wishful thinking I suppose.
Poets often spend a lot of time in the future tense and consequently fill the present tense with worry, but we also proffer possibilities that cannot be seen by most others.
Somehow I feel as though poetry marries the Self as well as the attachments. The idea of deconstruction seems primitive yet rewarding. Poetry offers us a bond, a union of the abstract/spiritual with the physical plane.
Would you give us an example from one of your poems?
“Hot Stars in Distress”
when the night is all you have left to cherish
may celestial stars guide you home
when the soul’s heart is vacant
fill it up with love and sympathy
The whole idea of how spiritual objects can be personified is not a modern concept. I do believe that a marriage of the Self & its attachments can be attained. I hope this example is not too vague.
No, it’s beautiful and wonderfully positive. I’m a fan of personification which too many people water down or simplify as “I am this and I am that…” Anyway, also from your story, “…writing poetry has opened new doors of perception. It has invited me to think deeper, below the consciousness.” As well you mention your love of astronomy and physics. What do you see up there that you are inspired to pen from the depths?
The whole Universe appears whenever the Muse is signaled. I feel stronger, able to be honest with my thoughts. I notice how stars experience their own life/death cycles. It is a human quality. The unknown is a mystery. I think we undervalue what is above us. There are other civilizations besides us. We must not be narrow-minded. We should apply our senses. It is divine.
You are in tune with the divine process, its manifestation, its wisdom all around us. What is the poetry of the cosmos from your perspective?
I am far from perfect though. I think as flawed humans it adds character & depth to our souls. I’d like to be more optimistic about the spiraling Universe. I dunno. I just try to grow a visual picture from my perspective.
…and in doing so, you are creating!
The cosmos is quite old yet charming too. We can learn a lot from the Universe. We also can contribute enough wisdom for the future generations in order to thrive.
Would you like to conclude with some wisdom of your own words or some that contributed to your own managing to get by in this world?
As for a parting word or two, I’d fancy to interject a philosophical quote to you.
“I know nothing, therefore I am.”
No one is perfect. Those who claim to know everything should be ignored. Focus on knowledge instead. Be modest, don’t take yourself seriously. *Giggles.* Above all, create.
(Compass Rose contains several of Smith’s poems. Copies can be obtained through Amazon.com.)