What I’m Reading: Maggie Smith’s Goldenrod

I scooped up Maggie Smith’s Goldenrod (Simon & Schuster 2021) from the library and enjoyed this breezy, sensual, and mindfully resonate read of poems. Each poem had its own spark, but the array of them also unfurled like Smith on the porch telling you a good story, with laughter, a few gaps in the telling that come from a good time, and maybe a beer or two from her fridge, but not three, across an autumn evening in Ohio.

Smith’s savvy middle-age voice is edgy yet suburban, a writer and a mother of two, and ends poems that question the boundaries and ideas we set up for ourselves, with statements like, “Do we know anymore what it is to be human?  I’ve stopped knowing what it is to be human.” 

I like this invitation to question.

In one poem titled from her daughter’s point of view, “After the Divorce, I Think of Something My Daughter Said About Mars” (p. 74), Smith writes, “One you go, you can never come back.”  Yes – that’s a life changing event.

The poem ends: “So if you go, / you have to stay gone.”  This was a moving comment on how her daughter has viewed divorce: a change with no going back, as if to Mars, where love lives on, but also with a certain firmness about maybe moving forward rather than dwelling on what’s not.

I was thinking about, overall, what makes Maggie Smith’s poetic voice optimistic and even cheerful. She never forgets, even in stepping out at night into the backyard, the same one she’s seen before and like everyone else falling into habit, to find and search again to find what’s delicate and precious.

I read Smith’s well circulated poem, “Good Bones,” some time ago, and am glad to read her latest full-length.

G. H. Mosson