Tracy K. Smith

February 20, 2014

Dear Reader,

It’s Thursday, and I have decided that Thursday is going to be book suggestion day. 
Tonight at BC I am going to hear Tracy K. Smith read. Smith is a poet who won the Pulitzer Prize for her collection Life on Mars. I studied the book in my Contemporary American Poetry class last semester and we all talked a lot about Smith’s abstract space theme. She has poems about science fiction, David Bowie, and what it like to feel like to be a martian. It is accessible but that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult. I struggled with getting in to it at first, attempting to make perfect sense of poetry that is often more sensual than sensible. Regardless, I encourage you all to read some of her work and in order to get you started:

The Universe As Primal Scream

5 PM on the nose. They open their mouths.
And it rolls out: high, shrill and metallic.
First the boy, then his sister. Occasionally,
They both let loose at once, and I think
Of putting on my shoes to go up and see
Whether it is merely an experiment
Their parents have been conducting
Upon the good crystal, which must surely
Lie shattered to dust on the floor.

Maybe the mother is still proud
Of the four pink lungs she nursed
To such might. Perhaps, if they hit
The magic decibel, the whole building
Will lift-off, and we’ll ride to glory
Like Elijah. If this is it–if this is what
Their cries are cocked toward–let the sky
Pass from blue, to red, to molten gold,
To black. Let the heaven we inherit approach.

Whether it is our dead in Old Testament robes,
Or a door opening onto the roiling infinity of space.
Whether it will bend down to greet us like a father,
Or swallow us like a furnace. I’m ready
To meet what refuses to let us keep anything
For long. What teases us with blessings,
Bends us with grief. Wizard, thief, the great
Wind rushing to knock our mirrors to the floor,
To sweep our short lives clean. How mean

Our racket seems beside it. My stereo on shuffle.
The neighbor chopping onions through a wall.
All of it just a hiccough against what may never
Come for us. And the kids upstairs still at it,
Screaming like the Dawn of Man, as if something
They have no name for has begun to insist
Upon being born.

-Tracy K. Smith
Life On Mars

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