Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith
Poems

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Synopsis

Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize

* 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.

 

About Tracy K. Smith

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Tracy K. Smith is the author of two previous poetry collections: Duende, winner of the James Laughlin Award, and The Body's Question, winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. She teaches at Princeton University and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
 
Published May 10, 2011 by Graywolf Press. 88 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Life on Mars

The New York Times

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Artist by artist these shows definitely have moments of strength, but the wholes rarely exceed the sum of the parts.

May 09 2008 | Read Full Review of Life on Mars: Poems

The New York Times

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The poet Tracy Smith imagines a soundtrack for the universe and mourns her father, who worked on the Hubble Telescope.

Aug 26 2011 | Read Full Review of Life on Mars: Poems

Publishers Weekly

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Laughlin Award–winner Smith's third collection blends pop culture, history, elegy, anecdote, and sociopolitical commentary to illustrate the weirdness of contemporary living.

Mar 21 2011 | Read Full Review of Life on Mars: Poems

BC Books

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The title poem uses the concept of dark matter to explore the darkness in humanity, including the 2009 case of Josef Fritzl, who kept his daughter locked in a basement for 24 years, human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay, rape, torture, war, and the destruction of the planet: “How else could we ge...

May 27 2012 | Read Full Review of Life on Mars: Poems

BC Books

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Other poems in this section chart small-mindedness, hypocrisy, prejudice, and hatred.

May 27 2012 | Read Full Review of Life on Mars: Poems

BC Books

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It’s a similar story with “My God, It’s Full of Stars”, the Kubrick-inspired ode to alien-life, with space: The cute kitsch continues until the television-inspired picture of the universe is replaced with images from Hubble, showing us it’s vastness: “So brutal and alive it seemed to comprehe...

May 27 2012 | Read Full Review of Life on Mars: Poems

Seattle PI

The poem could continue to grow the anger -- there's plenty to inspire it, but Smith controls the work beautifully, moving from the general: "Hate spreads itself out thin and skims the surface," to particular killings conducted by white supremacists in 2009.

May 27 2012 | Read Full Review of Life on Mars: Poems

Bookmarks Magazine

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.

Sep 08 2011 | Read Full Review of Life on Mars: Poems

Project MUSE

In “The Museum of Obsolescence,” it refers to the abstract idea of all the things that could have saved humanity, but it becomes more tangible as “It watches us watch it.” In the first section “My God, It’s Full of Stars,” it takes a new form in almost every line before becoming the idea of a cos...

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