Poetry 365

February 13, 2012

Poet Tracy K. Smith

This month for Poetry 365 we’re featuring Tracy K. Smith’s brilliant new volume Life on Mars.  A 2011 NY Times Notable Book, the Princeton professor’s third collection showcases her impressive range as it blends “pop culture, history, elegy, anecdote, and sociopolitical commentary to illustrate the weirdness of contemporary living.”  Hypnotic, ironic, and spiritual, Life on Mars is a stunning tour de force that finds Smith pausing to mourn her late father before blasting off to explore her vision of our sci-fi future.  So check out this remarkable new collection, sample a poem below, and make sure to stop back next month for Poetry 365.

The Museum of Obsolescence

So much we once coveted.  So much
That would have saved us, but lived,
Instead, its own quick span, returning
To uselessness with the mute acquiescence
Of shed skin.  It watches us watch it:
Our faulty eyes, our telltale heat, hearts
Ticking through our shirts.  We’re here
To titter at the gimracks, the naive tools,
The replicas of replicas stacked like bricks.
There’s green money, and oil in drums.
Pots of honey pilfered from a tomb.  Books
Recounting the wars, maps of fizzled stars.
In the south wing, there’s a small room
Where a living man sits on display.  Ask,
And he’ll describe the old beliefs.  If you
Laugh, he’ll lower his head to his hands
And sigh.  When he dies, they’ll replace him
With a video looping on ad infinitum.
Special installations come and go.  “Love”
Was up for a season, followed by “Illness,”
Concepts difficult to grasp.  The last thing you see
(After a mirror – someone’s idea of a joke?)
Is an image of the old planet taken from space.
Outside, vendors hawk t-shirts, three for eight.

Russell J. (Readers’ Services)

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