William Jay Smith Papers, ca. 1924-2004.
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Biographical / Historical Note

William Jay Smith, a prolific man of letters for over 40 years, has produced more than 30 books of poetry, criticism, translations, and children's literature. A native of St. Louis and an alumnus of Washington University (BA 1939, MA 1941), he has received numerous literary honors and has read his work at universities and symposia throughout the world. Smith has held academic appointments at a number of universities and served as the Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress from 1968 to 1970.

Although Smith is equally at home in most literary genres, he is probably best known today for his work as a translator and for the role he has played in introducing the work of numerous foreign authors to English-speaking audiences. Smith's early work as a translator was directed towards French literature ( Poems of a Multimillionaire, by Valery Larbaud, 1955; Selected Writings of Jules Laforgue, 1956); over the past decade, however, he has been particularly active translating the work of East European authors. His translations of work by Hungarian authors brought him that country's Gold Medal of Labor, making Smith the first American to receive this award. And Smith continues to expand his translating interests. In the past few years, for example, he has co-edited two anthologies of contemporary verse, Brazilian Poetry: 1950-1980 (1983) and Dutch Interior: Postwar Poetry of the Netherlands and Flanders (1984), thus helping to introduce two unique bodies of writing to a wider audience.