Life on Mars

Title:
Life on Mars
Poems
Tracy K. Smith
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"A collection of bold, skillful poems, taking readers into the universe and moving them to an authentic mix of joy and pain."—Pulitzer Prize judges' citation

Named as a "Best Book of the Year" by the New YorkerPublishers Weekly, and Library Journal

Named a "Notable Book of 2011" by the New York Times and as an "Editor's Choice" by the New York Times Book Review


 

About the Book

Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry

You lie there kicking like a baby, waiting for God himself
To lift you past the rungs of your crib. What
Would your life say if it could talk?

—from “No Fly Zone”
 
With allusions to David Bowie and interplanetary travel, Life on Mars imagines a soundtrack for the universe to accompany the discoveries, failures, and oddities of human existence. In these brilliant new poems, Tracy K. Smith envisions a sci-fi future sucked clean of any real dangers, contemplates the dark matter that keeps people both close and distant, and revisits the kitschy concepts like “love” and “illness” now relegated to the Museum of Obsolescence. These poems reveal the realities of life lived here, on the ground, where a daughter is imprisoned in the basement by her own father, where celebrities and pop stars walk among us, and where the poet herself loses her father, one of the engineers who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope. With this remarkable third collection, Smith establishes herself among the best poets of her generation.

Additional Reviews

“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’s work manages to toe the line perfectly between a commonplace modernism and a fanciful classicism. Life on Mars' rich tapestry traverses a broad spectrum of modern experience, linking pop-culture to science and the geography of human pain, forgiveness and transcendence."  —The Compulsive Reader