Wade in the Water: Poems (Hardcover)

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Tracy K. Smith is our current US Poet Laureate, and her newest collection is a fierce reminder why. Wade in the Water bristles with fury at the state of our country but never collapses into complacency. On the contrary, Smith demands answers, asking: "How much more will we bury / in the earth? How much / in this dark where the earth floats?" She's at her best, and most gutting, with a series of erasure poems born out of letters from black soldiers fighting in the Civil War and the families awaiting their return. Addressing President Lincoln, one soldier's request: "you will please / let me know if we are free and what i can do" -Shawn

— From Spring Booknotes 2018


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.

About the Author

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.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781555978136
ISBN-10: 1555978134
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Publication Date: April 3rd, 2018
Pages: 88
Language: English