Cindy Bosley Smith has been teaching college level writing since 1991, and has earned a B.A. in English and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She currently resides in Maumee, Ohio with her three daughters and her husband, Shannon, who is also a writer.
Lorraine: Since you were born in Ottumwa, Iowa, how long have you lived in Maumee, Ohio?
Cindy: I have lived in Maumee/Toledo since 1995, after the small college where my husband and I were teaching in northwest Iowa went ‘under’. I got some advice upon marriage that I should always try to live in a walking community near schools, library, grocery, and post office, so I got as close to that intersection as I could get. So I’ve been here almost longer than in Ottumwa, where I grew up, but Ottumwa will always be my hometown. Not that that’s a good thing.
Lorraine: When did you first realize that you were a poet?
Cindy: I was in 4th grade, messing around with an English assignment, and I ended up writing my first series of poems: Utah, Ohio, and Iowa were the titles of these four-line, single stanza poems about states that have four letters each. And then through junior high, of course I wrote the longingest teenaged broken-heart poems, and then one Christmas I got a caligraphy set with yellow parchment paper, so all through high school, I’d caligraph my poems and hang them on the walls around my tiny room. In high school English class my senior year, I gave a poetry reading with a masquerade mask on, and my teacher suggested that it might be more than a hobby for me. That’s really when I began to set my sights on poetry as an area worth serious study.
Lorraine: What were some of the poems you read while wearing the masquerade mask?
Cindy: While wearing the mask in my high school English class, I read a poem with “Alas, poor Yorick!” skull imagery (the skull was supposed to be my father’s…not a sweet poem), and at least one love poem, and a poem featuring Cinderella themes.
Lorraine: When was the first time you had a poem published?
Cindy: The Cinderella poem was my first published poem, entered into, but not winning, a high school area poetry contest the previous year. What I remember about the contest was that my English teacher–very beloved by me–cut the last lines of the poem due to length restrictions in the contest. I remember being somewhat taken aback, but then shortly after, I could see that the cuts made the poem that much better.
Lorraine: What style of poetry do you usually write?
Cindy: Recently, I’ve been playing with my favorite poetic form, which is the short prose poem. I love how that sub-genre crosses into the territory of “sudden fiction” or “short shorts” or whatever term is in vogue to describe super-short narratives. This comes long after one of my teachers in grad school challenged me, upon graduation, to get more familiar with formal aspects of poetry, too, to broaden my strengths a bit beyond the open-form, non-regular-syllabic poems I tended to write. Since then, I’m very fond of the pantoum and villanelle forms in particular, and the sonnet is nearly always a spectacular form to work in. But I most enjoy subverting the rules.
Lorraine: Since you are fond of the pantoum form, have you been influenced by poets such as Carolyn Kizer?
Cindy: I do like Kizer’s work, but would list my influences more along the lines of Pablo Neruda, Tomas Transtromer, Adelia Prado, Galway Kinnell, Brenda Hillman, Sharon Olds, Robert Hass, Gerald Stern, Marvin Bell, to name a few close to my heart and my muse.
Lorraine: What poetic projects are you currently working on?
Cindy: Currently, my poetry projects are re-awakening after some dormancy–not in the writing, but in the business of poetry. I’ve collected all the loose paper drafts together now, for instance, and have begun to put together the most current drafts into various computer files. Last semester, I put together a chapbook just for close friends and a few students in my poetry writing class (since a number of those poems came out of assignments I’d given to them and done myself).
A close writing-friend has observed that I have a certain good number of prose poetry pieces that might need to be collected together, and I am considering this as an ongoing project.
Other than those things, I try to produce a somewhat finished piece of writing every week, usually a poem.
Lorraine: What are some of the publications that you have been published in?
Cindy: I’ve had poems published mostly in academic journals–The North American Review, Midwest Quarterly, Flyway Literary Journal, American Literary Review, Willow Springs, Prairie Schooner, and some others. I’ve had a few things published online also–some poems at VEER, and I was very pleased to be asked to publish at The Alsop Review. Also, Pathways, Owens Community College Literary Journal, has been a great place to be published. My most recent publication is in the Broadway Bards First anthology this past summer.
Lorraine: What advice do you have for young poets?
Cindy: I sometimes get to teach an intro to poetry class, and I like to see lots of the students’ own work in that class. I love giving and doing poetry assignments, too. This means I sometimes do get to give advice. The best advice *I* got as a young poet was not to hinge my writing on an academic degree, and not to feel channeled into teaching as the only decent option for a poet. This professor/poet advised his students to graduate (ha) and then to choose a place to live–a landscape–that fit with his or her soul, go there, get any kind of job, and just write whenever possible. I didn’t follow that advice…I followed along with my poet-sweetie to the fairly arctic, desolate place where he’d gotten a job (northwest Iowa, very near the Dakota border) and then I got a job there too. But it’s very good advice. Poetically speaking, if a younger writer loves rhyme, I nudge them to try not rhyming, and if that younger poet doesn’t work with rhyme, I nudge them to return to it. Rhyme is, I think, the most fascinating and subtle part of the language of poetry–like the small glass facets inside a kaleidoscope.
Because I Don’t Know What to Say About Bernanke
Should you reject yourself because you count buttons and pick up
glass when all civilization tells you: please, this is hardly the time?
— Richard Hugo
“I’ve been sewing bits of fabric to other bits
of fabric and sorting plate hangers from crayons
and putting them all into the same large box
for some future joy, someday when I am searching
for that one red pencil sharpener in the basement
and open that box and find my plate hangers! Find
my baggie of crayons! Find my handbag! I’ve been
carrying toys long separated from their mates
up the stairs to their owners’ rooms. I’ve been saving
up prompts on notecards and I don’t ever have to use
them, I just need to know they’re there. I’ve been
parsing sugar cubes: the ones that got wet from the ones
that are dry. I’ve been breaking down boxes and sliding
them with great satisfaction into the blue recycle bin.
I’ve been trading the full bin on the porch with
the empty one outside. I’ve been measuring
the overdrafts. Calculating at the CoinStar. I’ve been
moving plants around. I’ve been very carefully pinning
Post-it Notes to fabric segments, 996 of them, and then
penciling numbers on each one with the flathead
daisy pins which are best for my kind of work.
I’ve been fixing iced lime-aid by the glassful: chunk
of ice, piddle of water, slosh of lime juice, and two packets
of yellow sweetener, taking great care to throw away
the empty papers. I’ve been stirring my drink with a long
iced tea spoon. I’ve been adding a swizzle of vodka,
and making a glass of the same for others.” This is what
I say to a friend who is sincerely concerned about the economy
and honestly disturbed by the ignorance around him.
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