Press for Good Bones


The Washington Post

Elizabeth Lund, critic for the Washington Post, has named Good Bones one of the five Best Poetry Collections of 2017, along with books by Layli Long Soldier, Danez Smith, Mary Oliver, and 2017 National Book Award winner Frank Bidart.

“The title poem of Good Bones, by Maggie Smith (Tupelo), went viral earlier this year because its central theme—wanting to believe in the goodness of the world for the sake of one’s children—connected with so many people. The other pieces in this collection, Smith’s third, provide a fuller understanding of the complexities faced by the speaker, who tries to teach everything a child needs for survival, but admits that “What can I say but stay/ alive? You’re new, and there’s too much to learn.”…No matter what the style or subject, though, the writing remains honest, compassionate and graceful, and the speaker maintains her determination to “love the world like a mother.” Read more

Publisher’s Weekly

“In this collection titled for a poem that became an unlikely viral sensation, Smith follows The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison by exploring the sensorium mothers and children share in a place where ‘deer still find their way to the backyard.’ Suburban as it may be, strangeness and terror manifest in this setting, while surreal sound and color imbue the ordinary with surprising affect, as in the ‘glitter-black overlap of shingles’ or ‘lit/ windows painting yellow Rothkos on the water.’ The collection features many meditations—on past and future, life and death—but the ones that stand out revolve around motherhood, particularly the magic and trauma of motherhood and motherlessness.” Read more

The Missouri Review

“Smith’s poems by turns flirt with this magical thinking and explode it. In “Rough Air,” the mother confronts fear of death not by praying but by invoking her children, though she knows very well that “motherhood / never kept anyone safe.” Our children’s need for us may feel like it overpowers physics, but it is no insurance policy. It won’t keep a plane in the sky.” Read more

Claremont Review of Books

“Her clear and precise imagery is reminiscent of Elizabeth Bishop and, shockingly, she tries to communicate important ideas to readers—including nonacademic readers. She exchanges postmodern snark for sincerity and wry wit….In recent decades we have produced almost no “public poets”—poets of the genius of Robert Frost and Edna St. Vincent Millay, poets whose work displays both the depth to interest academics and the accessibility to interest the general public. With her refreshing love of language and ideas, Maggie Smith is one of our best bets to fill that void.” Read more

The Rumpus

Look closer seems to be this poet’s credo—a directive which is not about looking forward or back, not about distance traveled so much as attention paid, committed. Smith wields nothing if not a mighty and committed gaze….Part of looking closer is seeing what is hard to face, and part of having courage is addressing what seems futile. In an earlier poem, Smith had noted, “Consider the baby I can’t hold any closer / to make him grow.” In another, she lamented with palpable sorrow, “This world is harrowing, harrowing, / all harrow, as if harrow were what / the world is made of.” What is she going to do now? What are we going to do now? How are any of us going to find the right way, or the right-of-way, to continue?” Read more

Michigan Quarterly Review

“The subtle mark of Smith’s excellence is how each poem arrives where it’s at—meeting both itself and the world, inhabiting them at once and entirely. The poems wander, examining the reflexive nature of our human, animal, moral and ethical mind, but by the final line they come fully into themselves. This mark is Smith’s capacity for hearing and feeling how the poem is in communication with the world through its various parts, and conveying with control and yet enough sense of wonder this contract with the world, self, and language.” Read more

The Millions

“Come for Smith’s viral title poem, but stay for her range as she builds a notable collection, one suffused with grace, and—dare I say it—hope. Poems like “First Fall” make her narrators feel like careful guides, each line a gesture, a lesson: “The first time you see / something die, you won’t know it might / come back. I’m desperate for you / to love the world because I brought you here.” This book is full of wonders. Of sky: “As you move through it, you make a tunnel / in the precise size and shape of your body.” Of the past: “The chairs are empty. The children / are unwrapping golden butterscotches / in the cool, shuttered houses.” Of the wisdom that comes from grief: “Where do you carry your dead? . . . what cut shape is made / whole by opening? I mean besides the heart.” Good Bones breathes mystical, pastoral wind, while also hitting notes of longing. The world has to be falling apart—it has to be a place where the narrator might ask “Where is your voice now…What has the land done to your tongue?”—in order for us and our words to lift it back up.” Read more


“The viral success of Maggie Smith’s “Good Bones”—which received critical acclaim from The New York Times, Public Radio International, and even featured on an episode of CBS’ Madam Secretary—became one of 2016’s defining literary moments. While the now-famous poem lends its name to Smith’s third poetry collection, and remains one of the book’s highlights, readers will find a far greater bounty within. Informed by the sacrifice, trepidation, and awe of early motherhood—“a spell/that is only now beginning to break”—Good Bones presents a rollicking array of lyrics, myths, and meditations. Notable for their heart, understatement, and deceptive accessibility, Smith’s poems yearn to reconcile how a world of wonders can remain a world of thorns.” Read more


The Rumpus

“As it turned out, I used those poems to write about some things that I wasn’t quite able to write about as myself yet. Somehow writing these very distant, third-person poems where the characters are “the girl,” “the woman,” “the man,” and “the boy” enabled me to have enough emotional distance that I basically wrote autobiographical poems using them as a frame. And when I finished them I thought, I don’t want to have a collection—I had enough for a book, I had about thirty of these poems—and it just felt too monotonous. It felt flat and very “project-y” and at that point I had begun to write direct, first-person poems about having miscarriages and about my own children in a way I hadn’t been able to before and so I thought, “Can I just braid these things together chronologically in the book?” It dovetails.” Read more

Full Stop

“There’s an intimacy to Good Bones that feels well-worn, like a barstool, a baseball glove. When you are inside these poems, there is nowhere else to be, because, like anything specific that grazes the subject of the universal, you’re everywhere at once. Maggie and I talked about her new collection, the surprise of children, the poetry of place, and much more.” Read more


The Washington Post

“It’s impossible to know how many people have read the poem, though one estimate in August put the number at nearly a million. The poem has been interpreted into a dance by a troupe in India, turned into a musical score for the voice and harp and been translated into Spanish, Italian, French, Korean, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. Closer to home, Smith says that she has gotten many requests for the work to appear in church bulletins and for her to read it aloud. “It’s my ‘Freebird,’ ” she jokes.”  Read more