William Jay Smith, 1918–2015

William Jay SmithJHU Press was proud to publish two collections of William Jay Smith’s poetry, The World below the Window: Poems 1937–1997 (1998) and Words by the Water (2008). Both books appeared in our series John Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction, edited by JHU’s John T. Irwin. Two poems from The World below the Window were featured in Smith’s recent obituary in the New York Times. We are pleased to reprint one of them here, the title poem from his first collection with Johns Hopkins.


The World below the Window

The geraniums I left last night on the windowsill,

To the best of my knowledge now, are out there still,

And will be there as long as I think they will.

And will be there as long as I think that I

Can throw the window open on the sky,

A touch of geranium pink in the tail of my eye;

As long as I think I see, past leaves green-growing,

Barges moving down a river, water flowing,

Fulfillment in the thought of thought outgoing,

Fulfillment in the sight of sight replying,

Of sound in the sound of small birds southward flying,

In life life-giving, and in death undying.

William Jay Smith (1918–2015) was the author of more than fifty books of poetry, children’s verse, literary criticism, translation, and memoirs. He served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (a position now called Poet Laureate) from 1968 to 1970.