A new exhibition in Olin Library highlights the life and work of one of Washington University's most prolific literary figures.
A Frame for Poetry: William Jay Smith is on display in Olin Library’s Ginkgo Reading Room and Grand Staircase Lobby through January 16.
William Jay Smith (BA 1939, MA 1941) has enjoyed an extraordinarily productive career as a poet, critic, translator, and memoirist. To recognize his accomplishments and celebrate his 90th birthday, the Washington University Libraries hosted an October 29th reading by Mr. Smith. The Libraries’ Department of Special Collections is home to the William Jay Smith Papers, an extensive archive of Smith’s books and manuscripts, ranging from childhood notebooks to his newly published volumes. (Check out the finding aid to his papers here.)
Smith was born in Louisiana and grew up at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, a period he recounted in his memoir Army Brat. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Washington University, then served in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II.
Smith has published more than 50 books of poetry, translations, and memoirs. From 1968 until 1970, he served as the Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress, a post now known as U.S. Poet Laureate.
Smith's latest books are Words by the Water, a collection of poems, and Dancing in the Garden: A Bittersweet Love Affair with France, a memoir, both published this year.