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Life on Mars: Poems Paperback – May 10, 2011
Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
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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.
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 ›
I hoped to find the remarkable title poem, Life On Mars, somewhere online, but no luck. It starts like this:
"Tina says what if dark matter is like the space between people
When what holds them together isn't exactly love, and I think
That sounds right - how strong the pull can be, as if something
That knows better won't let you drift apart so easily, and how
Small and heavy you feel, stuck there spinning in place."
Life can treat us roughly and horribly.
"I knew which direction to go
From the stench of what still burned.
It was funny to see my house
Like that - as if the roof
Had been lifted up and carried off
By someone playing at dolls.
Tina says we do it to one another, every day,
Knowing and not knowing. When it is love,
What happens feels like dumb luck. When it's not,
We're riddled with bullets, shot through like ducks."
Is it all due to dark matter? Or something else? It's well worth your tracking down that title poem to find out what she says.
This excellent one, beautifully titled, "My God, It's Full of Stars", can be found online. [...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I don't read a lot of poetry because honestly its hard to find stuff I like. This book is really interesting and good. I've read it quite a few times. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jenniferwritesreviews
A deeply moving and beautifully crafted collection. The theme of outer space is woven together with personal anecdotes and political commentary, humor and adversity. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Alexandra Helms
Had I read this book before we lost Bowie to the stars, I am sure its strengths would still have been palpable. Reading it after his passing was like walking through fire. Read morePublished 3 months ago by John La Padula
Brilliant poet - superb collection that will energize and inspire you.Published 4 months ago by Elizabeth Vrenios
Current poetry mostly leaves me cold, but these are a delight! Will be looking for more by her.Published 5 months ago by Unclebob53703.
Life on Mars does all that we hope from great poetry: Here is a book that is not only artistically flawless, it explores grand themes of life and death, it delves intimately into... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Paolo & Francesca
Clearly, this girl is a brilliant find.
Her subject matter is modern; her skills are old-world.
Looking forward to more from her.