Alison Smith

From New Germany to Maury Povich, poet Alison Smith explores the strangeness of rural living.

Alison Smith's poems evoke the feeling of a solitary weekend spent at the cottage in order to sort some things out. Bracing, overcast and contemplative, her work is distinct and resonates especially with Nova Scotians. "It's been a good year for me. I decided to concentrate on my writing full-time in the spring and since then I've received a grant from ArtsNS and been shortlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize" for "Bluegrass Meteorology." "I feel like I'm on the right track," says Smith.

But literary pomp isn't really her bag. "The whole prize process was thrilling---I've never had feedback from so many readers at once---but I am also happy to get back to my solo process. I crave responses to my work, but it's good to be able to retreat from them too, even when they're positive."

Committing to poetry full-time has allowed Smith to revise a collection of older poems and begin new ones. "The collection of older work is tentatively titled My Quiet Calamity because the poems seem to share a sense of repressed crisis. It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since I put out a full-length collection," 2003's Six Mats and One Year accompanying The Wedding House and Fishwork, Dear on Gaspereau Press. "I had a couple of kids and my writing slowed down for awhile. The break wasn't a bad thing and I certainly don't regret the choices I've made. I think that I've returned to my work with a stronger sense of what I want to accomplish with each poem."

To recharge in between working on the collection, Smith's unusual (and brilliant) writing exercise creates engaging work that is very far removed from her usual subject matter---sonnets composed of dialogue from episodes of The Maury Show. "It's the first time I've worked with the sonnet form and I've made it extra challenging by limiting myself to the speech of individual guests on the show," Smith says. "I watched an episode one day when I was procrastinating and I wondered what would happen if you looked at the speech without all the interruptions and other theatrics."

At readings, they serve as a bit of a palate cleanser to her more introspective pieces, a neutral space away from her primary work that can hit quite close to home for her audiences. "I have a couple of readings coming up in rural communities"---New Germany and Greenfield---"which is a little intimidating because my work is often about the strangeness of rural life," says Smith. "It's definitely easier to read your work to people who live farther away from your subject matter. So we'll see."

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