Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Life on Mars: Poems by Tracy K. Smith

Life on Mars: Poems (edition 2011)

by Tracy K. Smith

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2171253,683 (4.14)74
Title:Life on Mars: Poems
Authors:Tracy K. Smith
Info:Graywolf Press (2011), Paperback, 88 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Life on Mars: Poems by Tracy K. Smith



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 74 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Best for: People unsure about poetry but looking for a way in.

In a nutshell: Collection of poems about life. Not just on mars.

Line that sticks with me:
“I didn’t want to believe
What we believe in those rooms:

That we are blessed, letting go,
Letting someone, anyone,

Drag open the drapes and heave us
Back into our blinding, bring lives.”

Why I chose it: There’s a poetry square on the summer reading BINGO I’m playing, and I figured, why not start with something from our nation’s Poet Laureate?

Review: As I mentioned in the title, I don’t believe that I’ve read any poetry since high school. This slim collection seemed manageable, plus I loved the cover.

Having read it, I’m sure that I’m missing some layers of meaning, but even with that acknowledgment, I can still say that I enjoyed this collection. I can see myself going back to it in the future, re-reading some of the poems.

The poem “They May Love All That He Has Chosen and Hate All That He Has Rejected” was especially powerful, as Ms. Smith explores some particularly hate-filled murders (hopefully you know what I mean by that), including that of abortion provider George Tiller. In one section of it, she has the murdered writing postcards to their killers. It’s powerful.

I’m not sure how much more poetry I’ll choose to read. In my city we have a poetry bookstore, so I might go in later this year and see if they have suggestions on more poems, and also on ways to really understand and read them. ( )
  ASKelmore | Jul 15, 2017 |
"As all the best poetry does, 'Life on Mars' first sends us out into the magnificent chill of the imagination and then returns us to ourselves, both changed and consoled."
  JennyArch | Jun 16, 2017 |
So, let me be clear: I do not read a lot of poetry. In fact, since graduating college, probably only the poems that friends have posted on their threads here on LT. But I heard Smith speak and loved her as a person and I bought this book, which won the Pulitzer Prize.

I am more of a traditionalist: I do not care for lines that extend into the next one, stopped by punctuation halfway in. Or stanzas that are sometimes three lines and then often two. Let's not even talk about rhyming. Clearly I am dated. Nor do I enjoy politics in my poetry. But there you are. This is what she does. In the end, my limits were tossed aside as Smith explored life, death, piracy, space, love, Bowie and her father (who worked on the Hubble Telescope).

I didn't understand all of the poems, but many of them I found stunning, or really interesting, or both!

This one is about the presence of her own child before conception:

“When Your Small Form Tumbled Into Me”

...You must have watched
For what felt like forever, wanting to be
What we passed back and forth between us like fire.
Wanting weight, desiring desire, dying
To descend into flesh, fault, the brief ecstasy of being.
From what dream of world did you wriggle free?
What soared--and what grieved--when you aimed your will
At the yes of my body alive like that on the sheets? ( )
  Berly | Mar 5, 2017 |
The titles of the poems I loved:
The Weather in Space
My God, It's Full of Stars
The Largeness We Can't See
The Soul
The Speed of Belief
Solstice ( )
  aprille | Mar 3, 2017 |
There is a sci-fi tilt to [[Tracy K. Smith]]’s book of poetry, [Life on Mars]; her father was an optical engineer who worked on the Hubble telescope. He'd "read Larry Niven at home and drink scotch on the rocks,/ His eyes exhausted and pink." A good part of the book reflects her reactions to his death in 2008. She also takes a celestial-eye view of our foibles ("I spent two years not looking/Into the mirror at his office") horrors (the "father in the news who kept his daughter/ Locked in a cell for decades") and irrationalities ("I didn't want to believe/ What we believe in those rooms").

I hoped to find the remarkable title poem, [Life On Mars], somewhere online, but no luck. It starts like this:

Tina says what if dark matter is like the space between people
When what holds them together isn't exactly love, and I think
That sounds right - how strong the pull can be, as if something
That knows better won't let you drift apart so easily, and how
Small and heavy you feel, stuck there spinning in place.

Life can treat us roughly and horribly.

I knew which direction to go
From the stench of what still burned.
It was funny to see my house
Like that - as if the roof
Had been lifted up and carried off
By someone playing at dolls.


Tina says we do it to one another, every day,
Knowing and not knowing. When it is love,
What happens feels like dumb luck. When it's not,
We're riddled with bullets, shot through like ducks.

Is it all due to dark matter? Or something else? It's well worth your tracking down that title poem to find out what she says.

This excellent one, beautifully titled, "My God, It's Full of Stars", can be found online. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/243880 Here's part of it:

Maybe the dead know, their eyes widening at last,

Seeing the high beams of a million galaxies flick on

At twilight. Hearing the engines flare, the horns

Not letting up, the frenzy of being. I want to be

One notch below bedlam, like a radio without a dial.

Wide open, so everything floods in at once.

And sealed tight, so nothing escapes. Not even time,

Which should curl in on itself and loop around like smoke.

The title of the book comes from the David Bowie song, and his Ziggy Stardust persona pops up in the book. So does the movie [2001: A Space Odyssey] and other cultural artifacts. This is a poetry book that's easy to enjoy, while giving the reader lots to ponder. I love this question she raises at the end of "No-Fly Zone"

You lie there kicking like a baby, waiting for God himself
To lift you past the rungs of your crib. What
Would your life say if it could talk?
( )
1 vote jnwelch | Apr 11, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

In this brilliant collection of new poems, Tracy K. Smith envisions a sci-fi future sucked clean of any real dangers, contemplates the dark matter that keeps people both close and distant and revisits kitschy concepts like 'love' and 'illness', now relegated to the museum of obsolescence. With allusions to David Bowie and interplanetary travel, Life on Mars imagines a soundtrack for the universe, accompanying the discoveries, failures and oddities of human existence and establishing Smith as one of the best poets of her generation.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
27 wanted

Popular covers


Average: (4.14)
3 6
3.5 4
4 18
4.5 2
5 13

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 116,161,773 books! | Top bar: Always visible