Duende, that dark and elusive force described by Federico García Lorca, is the undefinable ability of the artist to channel creative and ecstatic power from within. But it is essential, Lorca says, for duende to include and accept and even serenade death.
Tracy K. Smith's bold second poetry collection explores history and the intersections of folk traditions and political resistance. One poem tells of a Ho-Chuk Indian boy separated from his tribe by the government; another, written as a play, gives voice to Ugandan women kidnapped by rebel commanders and forced to become their wives; and others, with lyrical grace, describe the dissolution of a marriage, often against the backdrops of war and political violence. Duende gives passionate testament to these cultures and their histories, and allows them to sing.
Praise for The Body's Question:
"This is a smart, daring first book of poems. Driven by Smith's raging desire of imagination, many of these often quiet poems describe something that's not there with deft grammar reaching toward possibility. Simple language, yet deceptively striking, and intelligent poems."—Listed as one of eight best poetry books in Black Issues Book Review
"The most persuasively haunted poems here are those where she 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