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.
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In these brilliant 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 the kitschy concepts like "love" and "illness" now relegated to the Museum of Obsolescence. These poems reveal the realities of life lived here, on the ground, where a daughter is imprisoned in the basement by her own father, where celebrities and pop stars walk among us, and where the poet herself loses her father, one of the engineers who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope.
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Tracy K. Smith has a fairly typical upbringing in suburban California: the youngest in a family of five children raised with limitless affection and a firm belief in God by a stay-at-home mother and an engineer father. But after spending a summer in Alabama at her grandmother's home, she returns to California with a new sense of what it means for her to be black: from her mother's memories of picking cotton as a girl in her father's field for pennies a bushel to her parents' involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.
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Duende, that dark and elusive force described by Federico Garcia 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.
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