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Duende: Poems Paperback – May 29, 2007

4.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Federico García Lorca famously described duende in relation to flamenco music, but understood it as the dark wellspring for any artistic endeavor. As interpreted by Smith in her Laughlin Award–winning second collection, duende is the unforgiving place where the soul confronts emotion, acknowledges death and finds poetry. Smith writes from various unconsoled spaces, where [k]nowledge is regret and [e]ach word is a wish. About the view from a failing marriage, Smith says: I liked best/ When there was nothing/ That I could/ Or could not see. These 30 poems are roving, alluding to diverse countries and political situations, often shifting perspectives and locations abruptly between sections. Identity and history are often sources of pain, and Smith adopts various marginalized personas (Flores Woman, Persephone, John Dall, Ugandan girls sold into wifedom) unhinged by displacement. Identity politics bleed into personal lyric, where the poet admits, I am not/ What you intend me to be. Writing in the voice of a Ugandan girl, Smith says, Somewhere in every life there is a line./ One side to the other and you are gone./ Not disappeared but undone. Although the site of undoing may well be the source of duende, the poet's lyric brilliance and political impulses never falter under the considerable weight of her subject matter. (June)
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Review

“The most persuasively haunted poems here are those where [Smith] casts herself not simply as a dutiful curator of personal history but a canny medium of fellow feeling and the stirrings of the collective unconscious . . . [And] it's this charged air of rapt apprehension that gives her spare, fluid lines their coolly incantatory tenor as she warms to the task of channeling disquieting visions and fugitive voices.” ―The New York Times Book Review on The Body's Question
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (May 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555974759
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555974756
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.3 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Hillary Watson on November 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
Tracy K. Smith invents a world of dark images and emotions, fed not by inspiration, but by its alternate manifestation, duende. The concept, developed by Frederico Garcia Lorca, is a passionate, ancient and innovative source of creativity that appears in the face of struggle and death. It is a raw, sincere force that comes from the depth of the heart, the most tortured corner of the artist's life. Smith's collection of brooding poems has the characteristics of a sophomore effort--with fitting irony, her quest for something beyond herself is frustrated by her unwillingness to examine her own identity. She explores duende by taking her audience to all sides of the world--Uganda, Brazil--and leaves them stranded in misunderstandings. Though some of her poems are rooted in the United States, they contain only abstract images of herself, and her message is still unclear. However, her formula is successful in several poems, particularly the longer ones such as History and The Nobodies.

Smith's work hops from image to image, heavily relying on nature, creating impersonal, disjointed, and dark poems. In the poem Diego, she begins, "Winter is a boa constrictor/Contemplating a goat. Nothing moves,/Save for the river, making its way/Steadily into ice. A state of consternation." Her strong beginnings fade and fail to make connections with the tangible, or in some cases, with itself. Still, several of her poems do speak clearly. In Poem in Which Nobody Says "I Told You So," she describes the duende that lurks in love: "Lust is real. Love/is the momentary lapse of treason."

Duende is a B+ effort, with a lot of potential. If Smith can tighten her images and learn to bring her readers back home after the long journey, she will be a powerful voice on many political and social issues.
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certainly unusual. pared down verse to a bone of feeling.

unexpected, like a candle flickering in a window in a midnight street.

the images follow you as you walk away.
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I read this book when it was first published. I shared her other book with one of my students who is a young writer and who admires Tracy K. Smith's work.
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Tracy k smith is my new favorite poet. Her work is dark, honest and chilling at times. I recommend this book of poems as well as Life on Mars.
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These poems are just, I'm lose for words. Miss Smith, is turning poetry on its head,in a good way!
She has definitely, got my attention. I have started trying to write poetry myself.
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