James Scott Smith lives on a creek on the front range of the Colorado Rockies. Working at home for the last 15 years, James is co-founder of Tava Creative Studios. He reads and writes when he isn’t capturing images or fishing the waters of hidden canyons. His award winning collections of poetry include Water, Rocks and Trees and, The Expanse of All Things, published by Homebound Publications. Check out his website here.
Robert Kostuck’s Review of Water, Rocks and Trees, by James Scott Smith
Is it the passing of time? Or is it the realization that time has passed? We reach a certain age and glibly speak of the ‘downslope’ or the ‘other side of fifty’, assured momentarily that those who went before always left something behind. And then we realize we are living our own ‘leave behind’ moments. This is the mature poet’s self-administered task—to elucidate clearly those moments that of insight. The day-to-day, the commonplace, the ordinary, the seemingly repetitive motions and words. James Scott Smith teaches us to dig down, sit or stand still, and allow those moments to supersede everything else.
are striving into October as
sunlight still conspires with the
soil, with the
hidden in dark places. (“Wildflowers” 1-5)
Standing ’mongst the dogs all
squint of eye and crane of neck until I named the
circling turkey buzzard speck of cumulus nimbus.
Such scavengers bring me pause. (“Sky Burial” 1-4)
The ease and excellent use of alliteration and rhyme throughout these poems highlights how they are meant to be read aloud. There is the hint of a melody, reminiscent of singing and songs, for after all poetry preceded writing and words were sung before they were written. Nothing worse than a lifeless poem reduced to mere ink and paper – or an electronic file; fortunately this work lifts from the page and takes life just where the pen or keyboard stops.
To the one who remembers Pangaea
to the soul dredged deep of a
land before God broke bread of it with
mighty works of root and cause to christen
the continents cast across the waters; be strong. (“Old Soul” 1-5)
Three black crows on
blue borne sky.
One with crust of
bread in beak.
Two with crust of
bread in eye.
I to hear the
matter speak. (“Crows” 1-8)
In last light
I walked to the creek
to throw a line and
breathe easy. I have
fished from tundra to
tidewater. I have stood
by still waters since
my first years. (“In Last Light” 1-8)
Also an accomplished nature photographer, James Scott Smith incorporates what he sees into his writing. These poems are about observing, interpreting, and translating the reality of the natural world. These are the magic tricks—simplifying a complex ecosystem into an intense gaze, and making the moment mean everything. That moment is like the hottest molecule at the heart of a star, unique and singular, yet surrounded by literally everything that makes it what it is.
for weed, it is scab on
wound. It binds, holds,
seeds, dies, feeds. Rising
against the blight of
propriety, joining the
ways of the killdeer (. . . .) (“Alfalfa” 4-11)
It is morning
and the fitful dreams are rinsing out into the
one reality within the seen things. (“Tenalach” 11-13)
Good writing comes from the inner imagination, worldly experience, or a combination of both. James Scott Smith reaches that sweet spot by attending to the outer world which will go on without us. The cycle of the seasons, the ballet of birth, life, and death—every moment unique, and spellbinding for those who can see clearly and return to tell the tale.
Robert Kostuck is an M.Ed. graduate from Northern Arizona University. Recently published fiction, essays, and reviews appear or are forthcoming in the anthologies Everywhere Stories, Vols. II and III, Manifest West, Vol. VI, and DoveTales Vols. IV—VII; and many print and online journals including Kenyon Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Southwest Review, Louisiana Literature, Free State Review, Zone 3, Saint Ann’s Review, Bryant Literary Review, Concho River Review, Flyway: A Literary Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Silk Road, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Crab Creek Review, Takahē Magazine, Roanoke Review, EVENT, and Tiferet. He is currently working on short stories, essays, and novels. He lives near an ocean; his heart belongs to the Chihuahua and Sonora deserts, and certain parts of Nova Scotia.
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