The Line Between Two Worlds: Tracy K. Smith and Elizabeth Alexander in Conversation
by Tracy K. Smith Interviewed by Elizabeth Alexander
Tracy K. Smith synthesizes the riches of many discursive and poetic traditions without regard to doctrine and with great technical rigor. Her poems are mysterious but utterly lucid and write a history that is sub-rosa yet fully within her vision. They are deeply satisfying and necessarily inconclusive. And they are pristinely beautiful without ever being precious.
Writers and musicians have explored the concept of duende, which might in English translate to a kind of existential blues. Smith is not interested in sadness, per se. Rather, in the strange music of these poems, I think Smith is trying to walk us close to the edge of death-in-life, the force of hovering death in both the personal and social realms, admitting its inevitability and sometimes-proximity, and understanding its manifestations in quotidian acts. This dark force is nonetheless a life force, which, in the poem "Flores Woman," concludes, "Like a dark star. I want to last." If Duende were wine it would certainly be red; if edible it would be meat cooked rare, coffee taken black, stinky cheese, bittersweet chocolate. Tracy K. Smith's music is wholly her own, and Duende is a dolorous, beautiful book.
See complete interview at http://poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19726