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Life on Mars: Poems by Tracy K. Smith

Life on Mars: Poems (edition 2011)

by Tracy K. Smith

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

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Life on Mars: Poems by Tracy K. Smith



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  redrabbit | Nov 25, 2014 |
In Waco, April means the Beall Poetry festival at Baylor University. In 1994, Mrs. Virginia B. Ball established the John A. and DeLouise McClelland Beall Endowed Fund to honor her parents and to encourage the writing and appreciation of poetry. Mrs. Ball was an English major who graduated from Baylor in 1940. Since 1995, the festival has celebrated some of the finest contemporary poets with readings, a panel discussion, and a lecture on contemporary poetry. Some of the invited participants include Donald Hall, Gary Snyder, Derek Walcott, Maxine Kumin, Galway Kinnell, Billy Collins, W.S. Merwin, Robert Bly, Philip Levine, Adrienne Rich, Louise Glück, Charles Wright, and Anthony Hecht.

The 2013 invitees included Bobby C. Rogers, James Fenton, Les Murray, and Pulitzer Prize winner, Tracy K. Smith. Henry Hart delivered the Virginia Beall Ball Lecture.

Tracy won the Pulitzer Prize for her third collection of poetry, Life on Mars. She read several poems at her reading, so I had a tough time selecting my favorite. Even after a couple of reads, the power of description and the emotion in these poems shine through to this reader. “The Good Life” well-represents her talents:

“When some people talk about money / They speak as if it were a mysterious lover / Who went out to buy milk and never / Came back, and it makes me nostalgic / For the years I lived on coffee and bread, / Hungry all the time, walking to work on Payday / Like a woman journeying for water / From a village without a well, then living / One or two nights like everyone else / On roast chicken and red wine.” (64)

It must be obvious I like short poems, and here is another, titled “The Soul”:

“The voice is clean. Has heft. Like Stones / Dropped in still water, or tossed / One after the other at a low wall. / Chipping away at what pushes back. Not always making a dent, but keeping at it. / And the silence around it is a door / Punched through with light. A garment / That attests to breasts, the privacy / Between thighs. This body is what we lean toward, / Tensing as it darts, dancing away. / But it’s the voice that enters us. Even / Saying nothing. Even saying nothing / Over and over absently to itself.” (23)

A good poet, in my opinion, is one who consistently produces thought-provoking poems, with imagery that rakes my imagination over cooling coals of emotion, then leaves me with a smile, or maybe a frown, or even laughter at the clever connections to my life, loves, and experiences. Tracy K. Smith is one of those poets. 5 stars.

--Jim, 4/17/13 ( )
  rmckeown | Apr 27, 2013 |
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this short collection of poems covers science and the future, the author's father, and numerous contemporary events. Somewhat unexpectedly, however, the poems toward the end of the book, about a variety of everyday occurrences, wound up being my favorites. ( )
  wanack | Dec 30, 2012 |
Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith, published by Graywolf Press on 30 percent post-consumer wastepaper, is a collection sliced up into four parts, and it won this year’s Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. In the first section there are two parallels that Smith draws — the one between poet and astronomer searching for meaning in vastness and the parallels between the physical and spiritual world. Like in “Cathedral Kitsch,” the narrator speaks of the gleam of gold in the church and wonders if God is there shining back on himself, but by the end of the poem, the narrator remarks on man’s stamp on the church and on faith. “I feel/Man here. The same wish/That named the planets.//Man with his shoes and tools,/His insistence to prove we exist/Just like God, in the large/And the small, the great//”

Some of the best lines come in “My God, It’s Full of Stars” where the narrator talks about God and the great unknown alongside the physical world in which she lives.

Read the full review: http://savvyverseandwit.com/2012/12/life-on-mars-by-tracy-k-smith.html ( )
  sagustocox | Dec 4, 2012 |
Tracy K. Smith knows how to write poems of emotional intensity, candor, and charm. She proves that at multiple moments in this collection. So many of the poems are tightly crafted and concise while being abundantly clear, and often haunting. Like many collections of poetry, this book is divided into parts. The thematic elements and tone in each part of this book are very distinct, and that is perhaps to its detriment. Smith explores the concepts of literal/figurative space and outer space in interesting ways, but the overt homages to Kubrick and Bowie in the first part seem like a whole other collection when compared to social indictments of killers in part three or the meditation on a lover's hands in part four. I might try to look at each section as its own collection, but each one being not even chapbook length, it feels too underdeveloped. In looking at the collection as a whole, it seems too disjointed. Smith covers a great area perhaps unified by some notion of memory or space or loss, but this possible unity is not tangible enough to allow the collection the potential it has to be completely astounding. ( )
  poetontheone | Oct 17, 2012 |
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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)

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