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Life on Mars: Poems Paperback – May 10, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 88 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (May 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555975844
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555975845
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for Life on Mars:
 
"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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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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My other favorite poets are Arthur Rimbaud and Diane Wikowski.
Barb - Arizona
I read about this book in an issue of Nature, since I am a fan of both poetry and science related literature I decided to investigate!
Combined Text
These are poems that unflinchingly capture the human condition today, but they do so with great beauty . . . and a touch of solace.
Rob Jacques

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Rob Jacques on May 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Life on Mars" is a collection of 33 poems touching on most aspects of 21st Century American hope and belief. Make no mistake about it: life on Mars is life on Earth, and readers will recognize the ironies (sometimes quite bitter) between our culture's surface appearances we so like to show others and the realities of deep scars and wounds we try to hide even from ourselves. The poem that gives the collection its title is a beautifully crafted work that discusses the "dark matter" existing between us that we don't (won't?) recognize and that might be responsible for wreaking havoc in our personal lives. It's a chilling indictment of us all that uses actual recent events in our country to make us hope and pray that it's dark matter causing our incest, intolerance, ignorance and destruction. An earlier generation would've said "The devil made me do it," but ours tries to lay the blame on natural phenomena. The poem packs a punch - deftly though, and artistically. I swear it must have taken Smith many revisions and months to get it right, choosing just the right image, the right words, the right inflections and line meter to achieve such success.

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.
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Combined Text on February 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
I read about this book in an issue of Nature, since I am a fan of both poetry and science related literature I decided to investigate! Tracy K. Smith does a nice job of offering a very human perspective on grand topics. The diction in this sense provides the reader with the most essential concepts of meaning and leaves us to wonder about the "Who" and "what." Time disappears as eternal questions of existence move the reader to wax ontologically. There is a balance of personal feelings and explorations of the majestic. It's reassuring to know that, in the tradition of prerogative, Ms. Smith has the jurisdiction to make creative musings on this scale. These poem's titles inspire the reader to dive into the freeness of these forms and break the code of "Savior Machine", identify with "At Some Point, They'll Want to Know What It's Like" and nod affirmatively with "Do You Wonder, Sometimes?"

The image on the cover does a lot for point of view, and leaves the reader with the question "Is it possible to sympathize with an imaginary significance, and in the same breath admire the "The Largeness We Can't See"?
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sebastian Schultz on June 28, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have a tendency of buying things on my wishlist when I'm intoxicated, and this just so happened to be one of those. I'm extremely pleased with this purchase. Tracy K. Smith's poems are grand, sometimes grand enough to give me chills. This is definitely a poetic endeavor that has landed among the stars.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Mitchell on June 5, 2014
Format: Paperback
I don't often write reviews, but I thought I should write at least a short one for this small book. I read poetry irregularly -I like it but it's not my go to- and I'm particular about the poetry I read. Something has to immediately resonate for me to continue beyond just the first poem, and that happened with Life On Mars. The first poem is a powerhouse that pulls you in and keeps you hooked from its beginning to the last poem in the book.
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40 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Regular Guy on April 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
I'm sure there are hundreds of intellectual reasons this won the Pulitzer, and Smith is obviously very smart and good at what she does. But, to me, this stuff seems quite convoluted and forced. It's written for other would-be poets and literati. Where's the guts? It's all just heady, well-researched, allusions to other poets, rock songs, and armchair science theory, with a dash of "hip" space movie connections. Whatever emotion is meant to be in these lines gets mired in poetic self-consciousness. I'll take Bowie's song (which gives this collection it's title) over this any day.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Linda Johnsen on July 7, 2013
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This is the best book by an American poet I've read in years.

When I find poets whose work I really enjoy in a magazine or anthology, I'll often buy their books. Sometimes this leads to disappointment; there'll be a few great poems and the rest is filler. Well there's no filler in this volume. Every poem here is brilliant.
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Barb - Arizona on October 5, 2011
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I think this is an excellent book of poetry. Tracy Smith is very gifted. To me, poets like her come along rarely. My other favorite poets are Arthur Rimbaud and Diane Wikowski. I would put Tracy in the same category. You can go back to her poems at any time and find something new and quite powerful in her words. I hope others 'discover' this talented American poet. I'm so glad I did.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michele T. on October 30, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I wish Tracy K. Smith could read me her poems! Reading them to myself is second best. Clearly better if they are read aloud. Also helps if you love rock music. I am not a frequent reader of poetry and find this moving and worthwhile.
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