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The Wick of Memory: New and Selected Poems, 1970--2000 Paperback – April 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After 17 collections--including two previous new and selecteds--one would expect the indefatigable Smith to settle down some, but not so. Proceeding chronologically (which here means back-to-front), one finds that a formal elegance and a maritime musical panache akin to early Lowell mark Smith's early work most clearly, whether meditating on oyster boats where "the currents carried/ cloisters of murk,/ miracles that bloom/ luminous and unseen, sweet things to be/ brought up, bejeweled, culled from husks" or simply capturing "the big-jawed Bluefish, ravenous, sleek muscle slamming,/ convoys rank after rank, wheeling through flume and flute of blood." Poems rooted to the South show a delighted attention to its quirks and an interest in familial progressions. When Smith, however, abandons this often patriarchal legacy and opts for a more confessional tone, his music begins to unravel, giving way to prosaic speech ("It/ might help to say how in my head/ she slumps helplessly, my arms/ don't know what to do with her") and bathetic doggerel ("and your voice goes/ spattering against my fingers like ache's shredding/ that couldn't be held back any longer"). Fortunately, "The Holy Mother of Connecticut Avenue" kicks off the book with a mortal vengeance--"death's hot shit piled up around us, a stinking smoke/ coiled like BO out of skinless wires, on floorboards licked,/ as if all we wanted was flame-touched at last"--and the wick catches anew. While not the major achievement a third try at a new and selected might suggest, there is enough energy here to merit a look. (Apr.)

Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press; First Edition edition (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807125490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807125496
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Auntie Annie VINE VOICE on November 1, 2014
Format: Paperback
This book has forty pages of new poems, and selections from ten of his other books. I found I enjoyed all of the selections from some books, fewer from others. The selections from Fate's Kite were all thirteen line poems which I enjoyed greatly. But the selections from his earlier works (and the number seemed to decrease the older the books became) were easily my favorites. Smith writes frequently about Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay area--boats, watermen, fishing--but about a wide variety of other subjects as well. If you are a fan of any of Smith's other books, this one is definitely a worthwhile investment.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Richard Attanasio on August 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
It's impossible to do justice to Dave Smith's "The Wick of Memory" in a brief review. In this book he writes as a young boy, a young man, a lover, husband, and father, a poet, and finally as one beginning to experience the deteriorations of aging. But all his poems are firmly grounded in specifics, and contain many startlingly apt similes. Some examples, recalled at random: a bird's eye in the rain "serene as a man ... bent at a radar screen," the sudden stillness as the eye of a hurricane passes over "like a lock with no key," and "can't breathe hardly better than stones made neon in deep space." These jewels, and many, many others, are embedded in poems that explore situations deeply, in concentrated, precise but accessible language. There are no wasted words in these poems.
There is humor in this book, sometimes laugh-out-loud, see "Boys in the Square in Bologna," more often wry or sharp, as in "A Lay of Summer" and "The Mourners' Line." There is pathos ("Floaters"), and perhaps he skirts the fine line between sentiment and sentimentality ("Red Dog") on occasion, but everywhere there is rich, rhythmic, pleasure-giving language. I most highly recommend this book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Johns Hopkins on October 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
One out of five.
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0 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Heather Feazel on September 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
Sit here and hope trying to cope my friend died it was suicide i said he wouldn't but i knew i couldnt stop him it's his life ended with the cut of a knife i dont no what he resolved but i hope his problem is solved.
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The Wick of Memory: New and Selected Poems, 1970--2000
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