U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s Wade in the Water is her most recent collection and the first I’ve read. I think it makes an excellent introduction to her work and wouldn’t be a bad place to start if you’re new to contemporary poetry. She does not intimidate, nor does her language obfuscate.
The two middle sections engaged me most. The first mines the Civil War era past and makes use of erasure and historical and primary sources in a way that both gives the suffering of African Americans at the time specificity and voice while absolutely illuminating continued injustices in the present. The second also makes poetry out of found materials to focus on contemporary issues such as the environment and racist violence. However, the poems don’t attack; they feel like they come from a place of hope.
A book I’m sure I’ll come back to soon, after I read her other collections, of course. 🙂
We’re a week into April (and it just got cold and snowy again where I live: April is the cruelest month), which means I’m a week into National/Global Poetry Writing Month, and it’s time for an update.
I’ve successfully drafted a poem each day: hooray! I made a note to myself early on that I would suppress my perfectionism and edit after this whole month is done. Yesterday was the first day when I really felt the poem was crap, but I already have thoughts on how to at least make it okay. Other than that, it hasn’t been much of a challenge to write every day. On the one hand, that’s great; on the other, it shows me how lazy I tend to be otherwise!
I also vowed to post about poetry I’m reading. Since I was unfamiliar with U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s work, I found some online, read a poem about evoking David Bowie (I’m a big fan), and promptly ordered two books, Wade in the Water (just released) and Life on Mars, which won the Pulitzer.
Here is a link to the poem I read, from Life on Mars.
So November (I think?) is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I’ve just learned about and decided to participate in National (or Global) Poetry Writing Month (April is national poetry month in the U.S.) where the aim is to write a poem a day. Wish me luck! I am generally undisciplined and not very prolific as a poet. I figure even if I don’t end up writing one for every day, I’ll still write a bunch. It will be more new poems than I had on March 31st. I already wrote one today.
But how about also making it National Poem Reading Month? I try to always be reading poetry regularly, but most folks don’t. I’m still reading Szymborska’s collected and last poems. I’d be psyched to know others were reading a poem a day!
I’ll do my best to post some lines from what I’m reading. If there’s a national poetry month where you live, I’d welcome similar posts whenever that is.
Also, here is a link to an NPR interview with the current American Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith (whose poems I am excited to read for the first time this month), who discusses the value of poetry, especially in our rough global times.