Steven M. Smith, director of SUNY Oswego’s Writing Center and a SUNY Oswego alumnus, recently published his debut poetry book titled “Strongman Contest.” 

“Strongman Contest” eloquently tells the tale of his complex and self-described non-existent relationship with his late father, his own journey of love, marriage and parenting and lessons about how we can become better than what was mirrored and taught to us as children.

His debut is a collection of poems Smith has been writing and publishing over the last 25 years apart from his day job of leading the writing tutoring operation for SUNY Oswego's Office of Learning Services. Now finally encompassed in one book, Smith has given himself the ability to gain closure over a wrought relationship and the opportunity to move on while helping others through his writing.

“Publishing 'Strongman Contest' has given me some much-needed closure regarding my flawed relationship with my late father,” Smith said. “My writing has now moved on.”

Becoming better

While only 92 pages in length, readers get a full glimpse into Smith’s life and creative mind as he brings the reader back to his childhood in rural Upstate New York and to some of his best remembered spots -- a bowling alley he went with his father, also the only fondly remembered outing he had with him, and Fair Haven Beach, a fond memory he has during summers with his mother. 

“Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of quality time with my father, but I had a lot of quality time with my mother,” Smith said. “When we would go to Fair Haven beach, we would borrow my grandfather’s station wagon and she would pack all of us kids in and we were always allowed to bring at least one friend. My father usually didn’t go -- but my mom would pack us all up and we would go and we would have a wonderful, wonderful day.”

While Smith explores his childhood favorite spots, he also shows the reader how flawed and imperfect parents can be and the impact that can have on a child. Poems like “Caught,” “Last Supper” and “Lesson In Worry” detail Smith’s childhood, his father’s alcoholism and Smith’s attempt to transcend the lessons he was taught.

And yet, even though parents may continue the behaviors they are taught as children, Smith also stresses the importance of learning how to be better than the generations before and to ensure people take the lessons they learn from childhood and apply them in their adult lives not only for the betterment of themselves, but for those around them as well.

“I would like readers to get out of this if we grew up in a household where there were a lot of issues, we really have to try to overcome those issues,” Smith said. “Down the road, when or if we become parents, we have to use some of those childhood experiences that were maybe not so good -- but the good ones too -- to become better parents, to become better citizens ourselves.”

Readers likely will be moved page to page by Smith’s recollection of his life and relationships. In “Strongman Contest,” Smith humanizes the struggle many individuals have with those closest to them while simultaneously expressing the emotions they wish we could. 

Readers can purchase “Strongman Contest” locally in the Marano Campus Center bookstore or buy it online via