Wade in the Water: Book summary and reviews of Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith

Wade in the Water

Poems

by Tracy K. Smith

Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith X
Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith
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Book Summary

The extraordinary new poetry collection by Tracy K. Smith, the Poet Laureate of the United States

Even the men in black armor, the ones
Jangling handcuffs and keys, what else

Are they so buffered against, if not love's blade
Sizing up the heart's familiar meat?

We watch and grieve. We sleep, stir, eat.
Love: the heart sliced open, gutted, clean.

Love: naked almost in the everlasting street,
Skirt lifted by a different kind of breeze.

--from "Unrest in Baton Rouge"

In Wade in the Water, Tracy K. Smith boldly ties America's contemporary moment both to our nation's fraught founding history and to a sense of the spirit, the everlasting. These are poems of sliding scale: some capture a flicker of song or memory; some collage an array of documents and voices; and some push past the known world into the haunted, the holy. Smith's signature voice--inquisitive, lyrical, and wry--turns over what it means to be a citizen, a mother, and an artist in a culture arbitrated by wealth, men, and violence. Here, private utterance becomes part of a larger choral arrangement as the collection widens to include erasures of The Declaration of Independence and the correspondence between slave owners, a found poem comprised of evidence of corporate pollution and accounts of near-death experiences, a sequence of letters written by African Americans enlisted in the Civil War, and the survivors' reports of recent immigrants and refugees. Wade in the Water is a potent and luminous book by one of America's essential poets.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Smith remains a master whose technical skill enhances her emotional facilities, one ever able to leave readers 'feeling pierced suddenly/ By pillars of heavy light.' " - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Poetry requires acts of exquisite selection and distillation that Smith, poet laureate of the United States, performs with virtuosity and passion throughout her profoundly affecting fourth collection. ... The sacred and the malevolent are astutely juxtaposed in this beautifully formed, deeply delving, and caring volume." - Booklist

"Technically accomplished and precisely attuned to our current cultural climate, Smith, like William Butler Yeats, once again demonstrates how an engaged, activist poetry need not forgo lyricism, compassion, and complexity to be effective." - Library Journal

"Smith's poetry is an awakening itself." - Vogue

"In these poems, with both gentleness and severity, Smith generously accepts what is an unusually public burden for an American poet, bringing national strife home, and finding the global in the local." - NPR.org

"[Wade in the Water] considers the state of the union with characteristic grace. . . . Smith holds this chorus together quite beautifully, often embedding contrasting fragments of text and tone in classical forms and schemes." - Harper's

"In lines that are as lyrical as they are wise ... Smith makes connections between the current state of American culture and its history." - BuzzFeed

"Deftly, Tracy K. Smith--the reigning poet laureate of the United States--illuminates America's generational wounds." - New York Magazine

This information about Wade in the Water was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith is the author of three previous poetry collections, including Life on Mars, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and a memoir, Ordinary Light, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. She teaches at Princeton University.

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