Bexley resident Maggie Smith reached an international audience with her poem, "Good Bones," -- now it's become the title of her new poetry collection.
Smith read from her work and discussed the poem's whirlwind success during an Oct. 2 appearance at Gramercy Books, 2424 E. Main St.
"Good Bones" went viral online and was selected as the Official Poem of 2016 by the BBC/Public Radio International. In April, "Good Bones" was featured on the CBS primetime drama, "Madam Secretary." To date, the poem has been translated into nearly a dozen languages.
The success of "Good Bones" is particularly notable because it was initially rejected by literary journals. The poem was eventually published in the literary journal Waxwing -- three days after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in June 2016. Readers began sharing the poem on social media.
Smith's new book did not share the poem's title initially.
"After the poem went viral, my editor said, 'Maybe we should make sure people know this poem is in the book,' " Smith said during a phone interview before her Gramercy Books appearance. "After it was on 'Madam Secretary' and Meryl Streep read it at Lincoln Center (in New York City), it became clear that it was taking on a life of its own."
In the poem, Smith writes about the experience of motherhood, inspired by the observations of her daughter, Violet, 8, and her son, Rhett, 4.
The joys and challenges of parenting are the subject of many of the poems in Smith's new collection.
"There's a few questions my preschooler asked, like 'Why is the sky so tall and over everything?' A lot of the poems grapple with some of the big questions kids ask and expect us as adults to have a definitive answer," Smith said. "Having kids has made me a lot more sensitive and attuned to my environment because everything's new to them."
Smith said she also draws inspiration from her environment.
"Place is really important in the book," she said, "and sort of the complicated relationship we have with home."
Smith grew up in Westerville and moved to Bexley in 2010 with her husband, Jason Beehler, an attorney. She said she and her family enjoy living in south Bexley and the convenience of walking or riding their bicycles to the Bexley Public Library, restaurants, coffee shops and other local establishments.
"We picked (Bexley) mainly for the schools. We had been living in German Village. I really like the ability to walk everywhere and the feeling that you're living in a city," she said. "I wanted the school system, but I didn't want to give up that urban walkability that we had in German Village."
In addition to "Good Bones," Smith is also the author of the poetry collections "The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison" and "Lamp of the Body," a winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award. She also is the author of three prize-winning chapbooks.
Smith's poems have appeared in the New York Times, the Best American Poetry, the Paris Review, Georgia Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares and other journals and anthologies. She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council and the Sustainable Arts Foundation. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from Ohio Wesleyan University and a master's of fine arts degree from Ohio State University.
Though the poem "Good Bones" raised her profile considerably, she said she has made an effort to stay grounded.
"I got off a plane in Mississippi and someone said, 'Are you Maggie Smith?' I thought, 'I'm not Bono!' " she said. "My life is really the same as before the poem went viral. My audience just grew exponentially."