Wade in the Water – Poems by Tracy K. Smith

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Goodreads Synopsis: 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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I had not heard of Tracy K. Smith before a couple years ago, I did some research on her for an interview I put together for a magazine and I’m really glad that piece of work brought her to my attention. Smith is a fantastic poet and I was very excited to get my hands on a copy of latest work.

Wade in the Water is a 96 page collection of historical poetry. I have never read erasure poems like this before and I really enjoyed the whole experience. Smith’s poems have a unique cadence to them that is really stunning to read. That combined with the subject matter of the erasure letters was just heart wrenching.

This collection confirmed to me that I need to read more by Smith. I really love her writing style and she’s one of the best modern poets that I’ve come across in recent years. I hope you all consider reading this collection or other of her works. I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.

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