Wade in the Water

Title:
Wade in the Water
Poems
Tracy K. Smith
Price$24.00
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“Smith’s new book is scorching in both its steady cognizance of America’s original racial sins . . . and apprehension about history’s direction. . . . These historical poems have a homely, unvarnished sort of grace.”The New York Times

“Smith’s poetry is an awakening itself.”—Vogue

About the Book

The extraordinary new poetry collection by Tracy K. Smith, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Life on Mars

Even the men in black armor, the ones
Jangling handcuffs and keys, what else
 
Are they so buffered against, if not love’s blade
Sizing up the heart’s familiar meat?
 
We watch and grieve. We sleep, stir, eat.
Love: the heart sliced open, gutted, clean.
 
Love: naked almost in the everlasting street,
Skirt lifted by a different kind of breeze.
 
—from “Unrest in Baton Rouge”
In Wade in the Water, Tracy K. Smith boldly ties America’s contemporary moment both to our nation’s fraught founding history and to a sense of the spirit, the everlasting. These are poems of sliding scale: some capture a flicker of song or memory; some collage an array of documents and voices; and some push past the known world into the haunted, the holy. Smith’s signature voice—inquisitive, lyrical, and wry—turns over what it means to be a citizen, a mother, and an artist in a culture arbitrated by wealth, men, and violence. Here, private utterance becomes part of a larger choral arrangement as the collection widens to include erasures of the Declaration of Independence and the correspondence between slave owners, a found poem comprised of evidence of corporate pollution and accounts of near-death experiences, a sequence of letters written by African Americans enlisted in the Civil War, and the survivors’ reports of recent immigrants and refugees. Wade in the Water is a potent and luminous book by one of America’s essential poets. 

Additional Reviews

“In these poems, with both gentleness and severity, Smith generously accepts what is an unusually public burden for an American poet, bringing national strife home, and finding the global in the local.”—NPR.org

Wade in the Water . . . deftly covers 250 years of the American experience, from the refugee’s plight to a company’s toxic spill to the complications of black motherhood.”Mother Jones

“[Wade in the Water] considers the state of the union with characteristic grace. . . . Smith holds this chorus together quite beautifully, often embedding contrasting fragments of text and tone in classical forms and schemes.”—Harper’s

“Deftly, Tracy K. Smith—the reigning poet laureate of the United States—illuminates America’s generational wounds.”—New York Magazine

“In lines that are as lyrical as they are wise . . . Smith makes connections between the current state of American culture and its history.”—BuzzFeed
 

“We are in good worlds with Smith leading the poetic charge, as Wade in the Water attests.”—The Millions

“Smith writes with lyricism and deep wisdom, connecting slavery and the Civil War to our current state of xenophobia and police brutality. . . . You’ll walk away feeling illuminated, and above all, appreciative of Smith’s immense talent.”—BuzzFeed Books Newsletter

“For Smith, poetry is hospitable: accommodating whatever she is moved to write. Her work witnesses, protests and raises its own roof. . . . Smith emerges as a poet in charge of her own creation myth and a recorder of destructive realities.”The Observer (UK)

“The poems in Wade in the Water are—in classic Smith fashion—gorgeously nuanced in music and in feeling and occasionally offbeat in their logic. . . . Smith lands on the power of art and its ability to pierce us ‘suddenly / By pillars of heavy light.’”—Poets.org
 

“Smith remains a master whose technical skill enhances her emotional facilities, one ever able to leave readers ‘feeling pierced suddenly/ By pillars of heavy light.’”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

Wade in the Water examines . . . injustice (political and personal) with sharp insight and telling detail. . . . While Smith repeatedly calls injustice and its perpetrators to account, her poems her poems also contain deep compassion and an insistence on hope.”—Shelf Awareness

“Poetry requires acts of exquisite selection and distillation that Smith, poet laureate of the United States, performs with virtuosity and passion throughout her profoundly affecting fourth collection. . . . The sacred and the malevolent are astutely juxtaposed in this beautifully formed, deeply delving, and caring volume.”Booklist, starred review

“Technically accomplished and precisely attuned to our current cultural climate, Smith, like William Butler Yeats, once again demonstrates how . . . engaged, activist poetry need not forgo lyricism, compassion, and complexity to be effective.”Library Journal

“Majestic. . . . This is a formally varied, masterful collection from the nation’s poet laureate.”—BookPage

“Poetry requires acts of exquisite selection and distillation that Smith, poet laureate of the United States, performs with virtuosity and passion throughout her profoundly affecting fourth collection. . . . The sacred and the malevolent are astutely juxtaposed in this beautifully formed, deeply delving, and caring volume.”Booklist, starred review

“Readers will be moved by this carefully crafted collection. It is entirely new and innovative.”—New York Journal of Books

“Tracy K. Smith weaves together past and present, personal and political in ways that are at once urgent and timeless.”The Arkansas International

“On a craft level, these poems are impeccable. . . . I know brilliance when I read it and this book is brilliant.”Roxane Gay, Goodreads