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Catalina Gomez: We’re here with award-winning writer and poet Carmen Giménez Smith. Today is May 22, 2012, and we’re doing this recording here at the Library of Congress for the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape.

Carmen, thank you for being here.

Carmen Giménez Smith: Thank you for having me.

CG: If you could talk a little bit about yourself first, and then do the readings.

CGS: Okay. My name is Carmen Giménez Smith. I am from California. I got my undergraduate degree at San Jose State and an MFA from the University of Iowa. I currently teach in New Mexico State University in the MFA program. I edit the literary magazine Puerto del Sol and I also am the publisher of Noemi Press, and I’ll be reading from my four books.

CG: Wonderful. Okay, so you can choose whichever one you want to start with.

CGS: I’m going to read from the poetry books chronologically, and then I’ll read from the memoir. So the first book I’ll be reading is called Odalisque in Pieces. I’m going to read the first poem, which is called “Photo of a Girl on a Beach.”

From Odalisque in Pieces (2009):

  • “Photo of a Girl on a Beach”
  • “Moonrock”
  • “Finding the Lark”
  • “Pillow Talk”
  • “How to Splint Things on the Run”
  • “Red Litany”
  • “Lapsarian”
  • “Déja Vu”

The next book is called The City She Was, and my conception of this book was . . . the backdrop of this book as Ovid’s poems of exile. I imagined . . . I love the self-pity of that book, and I wanted to enact that. I’m from the bay area and I miss San Francisco a lot, but I also felt very isolated, and so I like the idea of thinking about being exiled inside of a city, which kind of feels like what gets described in Ovid’s poems. He’s thinking a lot about friendship too, which is one of the themes in this book. And it’s also about being young and stupid. So, it’s called The City She Was. I’m going to read the first few poems actually, the first two poems, and then one that’s pretty soon in the collection because I think they establish a kind of baseline for what happened in the book.

This is the first poem and it’s called “For about Five Minutes in the Aughts”

From The City She Was (2011):

  • “For about Five Minutes in the Aughts”
  • “The Walk”
  • “Museum of Lost Acquaintance”
  • “The City She Was”
  • “Bleeding Heart”
  • “Smaller, Quieter”
  • “Red Baroness”
  • “My Open Sesame”

Alright. The next book is called Goodbye, Flicker and I worked on this book for many, many years—over ten years. The book is based on Barryman’s Dream Songs in part, and it’s inflected with fairytales and folk tales and the idea is that this . . . they’re like dream songs. There’s many people writing the poems in these books, but the primary speaker is a young girl who escapes into fairytales, so I’m going to read a couple of poems at the beginning that establish that, and then I’ll read some poems from the rest of the book that give you more of a sense of what’s happening.

So this is the first poem in the book and it’s called “We Shall Now Hear What Happened.”

From Goodbye, Flicker (2012):

  • “We Shall Now Hear What Happened”
  • “The Backstory”
  • “Bluebeard”
  • “Catastrophic Dreaming”
  • “Sliver Poet’s Indictment”
  • “Tongue-Cut Sparrow”

And I’m going to end with reading from my book of nonfiction which is called Bring Down the Little Birds. The book is about a few different things; it’s about being pregnant with my daughter who’s now six years old, and also about the onset of what we come to find out is my mother’s Alzheimer, but at the time we thought it was caused by a brain tumor, her memory problems.

This scene happens soon after my daughter is born and we go to a swimming pool. I did a lot of swimming in those days.

From Bring Down the Little Birds (2010):

  • Excerpt.


U.S. Poetry and Prose in English at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, May 22, 2012

Recording Title: Carmen Giménez Smith Reading from her Works
Reading moderated by: Catalina Gómez


1)  Poem selections from Odalisque in Pieces (2009)

  • “Photo of a Girl on a Beach” -- (min. 1:11)
  • “Moonrock” -- (min. 2:28)
  • “Finding the Lark” -- (min. 3:18)
  • “Pillow Talk” – (min. 7:10)
  • “How to Splint Things on the Run” – (min. 8:03)
  • “Red Litany” – (min. 9:43)
  • “Lapsarian” – (min. 10:47)
  • “Déja Vù” – (min. 14:52)

2) Poem Selections from The City She Was (2011) – Intro – (min. 16:30)

  • “For About Five Minutes in the Aughts” (min 17:28)
  • “The Walk” – (min 20:08)
  • “Museum of Lost Acquaintance” – (min 21:08)
  • “The City She Was” – (min. 25:12)
  • “Bleeding Heart” – (min. 28:27)
  • “Smaller, Quieter” – (min. 30:24)
  • “Red Baroness” – (min. 31:01)
  • “My Open Sesame” – (min. 31:38)

3). Poem selections from Goodbye Flicker (2012) – Intro (min. 32:35)

  • “We Shall Now Hear What Happened” -- (min. 33:28)
  • “Backstory” -- (min. 35:52)
  • “Bluebeard” -- (min. 37:30)
  • “Catastrophic Dreaming” – (min. 38:40)
  • “Silver Poet’s Indictment”--(min. 39:52)
  • “Tongue-Cut Sparrow” -- (min. 40:44)

4). Prose excerpt from Bring Down the Little Birds: On Mothering, Art, Work, and Everything Else (2010).

  • Intro (min. 42:05)
  • “First excerpt” – (min 42:50)
  • “First excerpt” (in Spanish) – (min 17:25)

Odalisque in Pieces

LC Catalog record:
Carmen Giménez Smith, Odalisque in Pieces (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2009).

The City She Was

LC Catalog record:
Carmen Giménez Smith, The City She Was (Fort Collins, Colo: The Center for Literary Pub./Colorado State University, 2011).

Goodbye Flicker

LC Catalog record:
Carmen Giménez Smith, Goodbye Flicker (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012).

Bring Down the Little Birds

LC Catalog record:
Carmen Giménez Smith, Bring Down the Little Birds (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2010).

Related Resources

Carmen Giménez Smith

Carmen Giménez Smith

Carmen Giménez Smith (1971- ) is the author of four books of poetry, Odalisque in Pieces, The City She Was, Goodbye Flicker, and Milk and Filth. She is also the author of an autobiographical book, Bring Down the Little Birds, and her work was included in the fiction anthology My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me. Giménez Smith’s honors include the Poetry Society of America’s New American Poets Series Award, the Juniper Prize for Poetry, the American Book Award, and a Howard Foundation Fellowship for creative non-fiction. She currently teaches creative writing at New Mexico State University, where she serves as the editor-in-chief of the literary journal Puerto del Sol.

Learn more about Carmen Giménez Smith at The Poetry Foundation