A Writer’s Poems
About How that Light Was Spent

This collection of poems written over a nearly fifty-year span is clearly autobiographical. A line in the last poem in the book is telling: “He expects soon to be blind altogether.” While light remains, the poet must use it to show how he has used it all through his life. Spending the Light is both the story of a life and an engaging self-portrait, using as a medium the things and places the poet has seen, the experiences he has had, the people he has known and loved, the changes he has gone through in the journey from fearful and fanciful child to a man of seventy, for whom what’s left is family and poetry.

Part One deals with the poet’s early life, the family of his childhood, his upbringing in upstate New York, and the awakening of sex, sensuality, and gender identification. Part Two is a dreamscape, a wild transition to later life, seen through the eyes of a bewildered shopper in a supermarket. Part Three deals with the issues of adulthood, celebrating romance, loving a woman, having sons, making a home and being in family, and entering the aging process.

Tom Smith’s wordplay is remarkable, celebrating sound as well as light. The rhymes in the earlier poems are masterful, and although he abandons formal structure and rhyme for the later poems, there is still a musical rhythm and flow. The poems find resonant meaning for our lives in the myths of our lore, from Adam and Eve to Jack and Jill. Smith also celebrates animals—from camels to crickets, from baboons to raccoons. His observations about animals are of course thinly disguised observations of human behavior. It is the poet’s job to spend the light by observing and by sharing his understanding. Tom Smith has done his job well.

Tom Smith is Professor Emeritus at Castleton State College in Vermont. He has been publishing poetry since 1959, and is the author of several books, including Cow’sleap, published by Fithian Press. He is married to soprano and actress Virginia DeAngelis Smith; they have two grown sons and four grandsons.

Spending the Light
by Tom Smith

ISBN 1-56474-434-5
112 pages, paperback, $12.00

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