Synopses & Reviews
Every poem is the story of itself.
Pure conflict. Its own undoing.
Breeze of dreams, then certain death.
Duende, that dark and elusive force described by Federico García Lorca, is the creative and ecstatic power an artist seeks to channel from within. It can lead the artist toward revelation, but it must also, Lorca says, accept and even serenade the possibility of death. Tracy K. Smith's bold second poetry collection explores history and the intersections of folk traditions, political resistance, and personal survival. Duende gives passionate testament to suppressed cultures, and allows them to sing.
"'Federico Garca Lorca famously described duende in relation to flamenco music, but understood it as the dark wellspring for any artistic endeavor. As interpreted by Smith in her Laughlin Award winning second collection, duende is the unforgiving place where the soul confronts emotion, acknowledges death and finds poetry. Smith writes from various unconsoled spaces, where '[k]nowledge is regret' and '[e]ach word is a wish.' About the view from a failing marriage, Smith says: 'I liked best/ When there was nothing/ That I could/ Or could not see.' These 30 poems are roving, alluding to diverse countries and political situations, often shifting perspectives and locations abruptly between sections. Identity and history are often sources of pain, and Smith adopts various marginalized personas (Flores Woman, Persephone, John Dall, Ugandan girls sold into wifedom) unhinged by displacement. Identity politics bleed into personal lyric, where the poet admits, 'I am not/ What you intend me to be.' Writing in the voice of a Ugandan girl, Smith says, 'Somewhere in every life there is a line./ One side to the other and you are gone./ Not disappeared but undone.' Although the site of undoing may well be the source of duende, the poet's lyric brilliance and political impulses never falter under the considerable weight of her subject matter. (June)' Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)"
Praise for The Body's Question
"The most persuasively haunted poems here are those where [Smith] casts herself not simply as a dutiful curator of personal history but a canny medium of fellow feeling and the stirrings of the collective unconscious . . . [And] it's this charged air of rapt apprehension that gives her spare, fluid lines their coolly incantatory tenor as she warms to the task of channeling disquieting visions and fugitive voices." --The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
TRACY K. SMITH is the author of The Body's Question. She received a Whiting Writers' Award in 2005 and a 2004 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award. She lives in Brooklyn and teaches at Princeton University.
Table of Contents
SeptemberLetter to a Photojournalist Going-In
El Mar AstralMinister of Saudade
I Don't Miss It
Igor at Gunpoint
To Burn with a Low Blue Flame
One Man at a Time
Poem in Which Nobody Says, "I Told You So"
Now That the Weather Has Turned
When Zappa Crashes My Family Reunion
"I Killed You Because You Didn't Go to School and Had No Future"
"Into the Moonless Light"
The Opposite of War
Nocture, Andalusian Dog