Friday, October 12, 2007

An Interview with Tracy K. Smith

Discovered this article this morning. For all you aspiring poets and readers, do check out Ms. Smith. We're featuring her debut collection. Tracy K. Smith won the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize for her book, The Body's Question (Graywolf Press 2003). Her second book, Duende (Graywolf Press, 2007) won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets.

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.

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