Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize
* Poet Laureate of the United States *
* A New York Times Notable Book of 2011 and New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice *
* A New Yorker, Library Journal and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year *
New poetry by the award-winning poet Tracy K. Smith, whose "lyric brilliance and political impulses never falter" (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
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.
Laughlin Award winner Smith's third collection blends pop culture, history, elegy, anecdote, and sociopolitical commentary to illustrate the weirdness of contemporary living. The book's title, borrowed from a David Bowie song, hints at the recurrent use of science fiction and alternate realities (which turn out to mirror this one all too well) throughout the book. For Smith, life is laced with violence and a kind of dark humor, as in "The Museum of Obsolescence," where, "in the south wing, there's a small room/ Where a living man sits on display." In another poem, laughter "skids across the floor/ Like beads yanked from some girl's throat." Poems set on space shuttles or in alternate realities manage to speak about an eerily familiar present; 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. "Who understands the world," Smith asks in these poems and sequences, "and when/ Will he make it make sense? Or she?"
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