Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs I awoke at 4:45 a.m. Friday, and after a couple of cups of coffee and some reflection, attempted to write a poem. Steve Smallwood made me do it. Or maybe he inspired me.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to share the poem with you. Writing verse isn’t easy, and it takes some nerve to put it out there for everyone to judge. Smallwood knows what I’m talking about. For at least a couple of decades now, the former Steamboat resident has been writing one or two poems each week.
When he lived in Steamboat in the 1990s and worked behind the desk of the old Harbor Hotel at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Seventh Street, Smallwood would bring his poems into the newspaper office, and we often would publish them as letters to the editor. They offered a nice change of pace.
Now Smallwood, retired and a resident of downtown Denver, has resurfaced with a self-published book of poems, “Garland,” through Xlibris.
Here’s a sample:
With the same incongruity
of brighter days during winter’s cold,
or of blackbirds flying against the snow,
you, sole star, cross the
span of my window pane,
severing the night’s darkness with
a new awakening and glow.
And Smallwood also writes longer poems laced with humor, like “Hamlet at the Laundromat (outside looking in).”
After a career that included volunteering in the Peace Corps in Peru and working for the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C., working in his family’s soft water business and purchasing a travel and tour agency, Smallwood moved here from Southern California.
He joined the Steamboat Writers Group, led by Harriet Freiberger.
“I didn’t start writing until I got to Steamboat. It must have been the altitude,” he told me this week. “I’ve written continually ever since.”
He sends his warm regards to Freiberger.
Smallwood is inspired by the 19th-century Romantics like Shelley and Keats. He also admires Wallace Stevens, known for his precision and vocabulary, and has been influenced by Elizabeth Bishop.
Smallwood said he writes early drafts of his poems by hand on paper before finally typing them.
“I write in longhand first, then I type them out, then I throw them in the trash can and then I revise them,” he said. “I’m a perfectionist, so I never get it right, and finally, I just give in. I try to stop at the fourth or fifth revision and leave it at that.”
Smallwood said he doesn’t take his inspiration from nature, but he often gazes toward the heavens:
Now darkest days begin to
turn slowly lighter amid
winter’s stasis of freezing,
and the re-emergence of the
re-nascent sun at the
antipodal edge of the world
and its widening arc
beyond solstice, north.
I only wish that I could say so much in a single sentence.
You can find “Garland” at www.xlibris.com. Just type the words “Garland Smallwood” in the search window. A softcover version of the book is available for $10, or one can download an e-book for $3.99. Or, if you don’t do computers, call 1-888-795-4274.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com