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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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2021058,111 (4.14)70
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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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 |
Most current poetry leaves me cold, but I found these delightful, partly because of the SF theme, partly because she writes with good humor and grace. Got to find more by her. ( )
  unclebob53703 | Feb 21, 2016 |
( )
  redrabbit | Nov 25, 2014 |
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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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