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Life on Mars: Poems Paperback – May 10, 2011
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“In Life on Mars, Smith shows herself to be a poet of extraordinary range and ambition. It's not easy to be so convincing in both the grand gesture and the reverent contemplation of a humble plate of eggs. . . . As all the best poetry does, Life on Mars first sends us out into the magnificent chill of the imagination and then returns us to ourselves, both changed and consoled.” ―Joel Brouwer, The New York Times Book Review
“[Life on Mars] is by turns intimate, even confessional, regarding private life in light of its potential extermination, and resoundingly political, warning of a future that 'isn't what it used to be,' the refuse of a party piled with 'postcards / And panties, bottles with lipstick on the rim.' ” ―Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker
“The book's strange and beautiful first section pulses with America's adolescent crush on the impossible, on what waits beyond the edge of the universe. . . . But what's most satisfying about [Life on Mars] is that after the grand space opera of Part 1, with its giddy name checks of 2001 and David Bowie, Ms. Smith shows us that she can play the minor keys, too. Her Martian metaphor firmly in place, she reveals unknowable terrains: birth and death and love.” ―Dana Jennings, The New York Times
“[Life on Mars] blends pop culture, history, elegy, anecdote, and sociopolitical commentary to illustrate the weirdness of contemporary living. . . . The title poem, which includes everything from 'dark matter' and 'a father.../ who kept his daughter/ Locked in a cell for decades' to Abu Ghraib is proof that life is far stranger and more haunting than fiction.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Hypnotic and brimming with irony, the poems in Smith's latest volume aren't so much about outer space as the interior life and the search for the divine. . . . The spiritual motif running through these poems adds a stunning dimension that will please many readers.” ―Library Journal
“[Tracy K. Smith is] one of the finest poets writing right now.” ―Gabrielle Calvocoressi, The Miami Herald
“In Life on Mars, a vibrant collection of verse, Smith pays homage to David Bowie ('the Pope of Pop'), Stanley Kubric, the Hubble Telescope, JFK airport and more. It's a gripping, intergalactic ride that marvels at the miracles and malfunctions of our ever changing world. 'Like a wide wake, rippling/Infinitely into the distance, everything/That ever was still is, somewhere.'” ―More Magazine
“[The poems] are smart, funny, and expertly crafted.” ―San Francisco Chronicle, Best Poetry of 2011
“A strong, surprising, and often beautiful book. . . . Consistently surprising and demanding, Life on Mars gives materiality to Victor Martinez's statement that 'poetry is the essence of thinking.' ” ―Sean Singer, The Rumpus
About the Author
Tracy K. Smith is the author of two previous poetry collections: Duende, winner of the James Laughlin Award, and The Body's Question, winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. She teaches at Princeton University and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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Top Customer Reviews
The poem "Life on Mars" is followed by a shorter gem: "Solstice." Here, Smith addresses the killing of Canada geese at JFK airport, the killing of people, and the public's dwindling interest in the news. What's remarkable is Smith chose the format of a villanelle to tell the tale - a poetic form that uses rhyme, repetition and meter to create a mystical atmosphere. In this case, the villanelle greatly heightens a feeling of helplessness and loss, and we pray that the solstice of our culture has been reached and that light will soon begin to return.Read more ›
A heavy presence of the divine pervades Life on Mars. Often addressed as "it", it flows through the poems like an undercurrent uniting the diversity of subjects. "It" is the "everything / that ever was still is, somewhere, / floating near the surface", "It" is the "something they have no name for that insists upon being born"; "It" is the "kind of ecstasy" the dead experience without a body; "It" is the something that "soars, then grieves" to be born; "It" is the feeling of the body longing to touch the body of a lover. Like a great mystic, Smith points us to the origin of things, the mysterious force that moves the universe, the soul of the body and the largeness that is everything we can't see.
For me, the most remarkable poem in the collection is "They May Love All That He Has Chosen and Hate All That He Has Rejected." The poem is based on homicides reported in the New York Times in the Spring of 2009. The victims write postcards to their assailants from America's most celebrated landmarks. The dead are given a voice as they speak about life, the strangeness of death and being killed.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Required reading for my son in college. I personally haven't read it.Published 2 months ago by Mike Leon
Clearly, this girl is a brilliant find.
Her subject matter is modern; her skills are old-world.
Looking forward to more from her.
This text completely reoriented my work as a poet. Blending contemporary expressions of the personal with Blake's mythopoesis, Smith offers a daring, intimate vision of grief and... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
I love it!! If you like poetry just buy the book. You will not regret it!Published 7 months ago by Miz Vera
Immerse yourself in images and emotion. go where she leads you and you lead yourself. Wow!Published 7 months ago by Martha
I love poetry
ordered this used
as I read about it in the N.Y. Times.
I am so sorry
but could not relate to this
will pass on to children or library...
Ms. Smith is a genius! That's all I'm gonna say. If you like poetry and even if you don't, buy this book!Published 11 months ago by Douglas Stewart
verbose fluff. stale. linguist, not a poet. those were my visceral reactions. since they were taking away from the experience, i opened my mind and wound up reading at a level... Read morePublished 11 months ago by s. peach