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Wade in the Water: Poems

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  698 Ratings  ·  138 Reviews

The extraordinary new poetry collection by Tracy K. Smith, the Poet Laureate of the United States

Even the men in black armor, the ones
Jangling handcuffs and keys, what else

Are they so buffered against, if not love’s blade
Sizing up the heart’s familiar meat?

We watch and grieve. We sleep, stir, eat.
Love: the heart sliced open, gutted, clean.

Love: naked almost in the everla

Kindle Edition, 96 pages
Published April 3rd 2018 by Graywolf Press
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Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I mean, she's the poet laureate for a reason. These are beautiful poems. I particularly enjoyed the erasure poems of black civil war soldiers seeking compensation. On a craft level, these poems are impeccable. They didn't have the emotional resonance I often look for in poetry but I know brilliance when I read it and this book is brilliant.
With a reading plan in place to complete a number of fun and rewarding challenges, 2018 looked bright. The year actually got off to a great start and then real life got in the way. This year is being devoted to family celebrations and just being with family so reading is going to be at a premium. I opted out of all of my challenges, and culled my to read pile down to just those books that I am genuinely interested in or are what I called award winning game changers.

One of these game changers is
Tori (InToriLex)
Find this and other Reviews at In Tori Lex

These poems are reflect how minorities in America have grappled with racism. Each piece pulls at your senses and challenges you to think more deeply about the world around you. The history of how black people survived slavery and reconstruction is often overlooked. In the poem "Unwritten" the use of real correspondence of African Americans while fighting in the Civil War and surviving after, let's us glimpse into the deep cavern of history that has not b
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's tough when the bottom of the book's cover reads "By the Poet Laureate of the United States" (not that I wouldn't minds such baggage). Tough to live up to the expectations. And Tracy K. Smith doesn't. Not if you're looking for stop-you-in-your-tracks poems that make you want to reread just to hear the pleasant little jingle again. I've read poetry like that, and no, not a lot of that here.

The best part is Smith's erasure poetry. There's a brilliant section that must've taken a lot of work. S
Jill Mackin
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, poet
Current poet laureate of the United States, Tracy K. Smith's poems are food for the soul for 2018 in our current political climate. Her erasure poems are so beautiful.
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Loved this collection of poems, especially those of the second section. The erasure poem, Declaration, is immense, as is 'I Will Tell You The Truth About This, I Will Tell You All About It,' in which Smith uses sources from letters written by former slaves + veterans of the US Army.
I'm relatively new to reading contemporary poetry, and am still learning what works for me personally, and what doesn't. I spent a long time reading and re-reading the poems from this collection, hoping it would eventually click, but something about it felt removed, closed off, and I can't say it resonated with me much overall. There are a lot of different and interesting themes and topics, but I couldn't help feeling I'd prefer to read them in a different form. The few poems that I liked more w ...more
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Jul 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-releases, poetry
On the whole I think now that Smith's style of poetry (lots of couplets?) doesn't do much for me. The found poems, which really seem to tell a story (like "Watershed" and "I Will Tell You the Truth About This, I Will Tell You All About It"), worked best for me and in particular I really enjoyed "Watershed". I recognized it from the article it's based on, "The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Worst Nightmare" (which was a fascinating read).
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Tracy K. Smith is the United States Poet Laureate. Wade in the Water is a collection of powerful poems about race, both historically, in our history of slavery specifically during the Civil War (and not only slavery but the mistreatment of the black Union soldiers) along with current examples of violence and hatred toward that which is "othered" in this country (as in African-American, Latinx, and Muslims).

Smith writes in a fascinating variety of styles, from lyrical poems to ghazels to erasure
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tracy K. Smith was appointed Poet Laureate for the United States in 2017. How lucky the United States.

Wade in the Water is her latest contribution to the wonderful world of poetry. Written mostly in non-rhyming prose, it describes and uses private experiences and public documents.

My favorite sections are borrowed from real letters written by real people during the Civil War. I have read so many books about slaves and their experiences, these poems were very real to me.

Smith is a professor at Pr
Shawn Mooney
Apr 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
A few sharp, resonant images aside, this pretty much left me cold. Most of these poems read like vertically-stacked prose.
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best around, these days. Just fantastic stuff.
I love Tracy K. Smith and to actually hear the poems read by the poet herself, was the icing on the cake. What a wonderful experience! I'm up to enjoying poetry again so I must be getting better.
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Highlights are the erasure poems of the Declaration of Independence (--taken Captive/ on the high Seas/ to bear --)
and Dupont dumping poison into drinking water, KNOWINGLY (with near death descriptions)
and African Americans enlisted in the Civil War, seeking pension (Yours for Christs sake --)

I was fortunate to be at Smith's inauguration as Poet Laureate, and see several of these poems performed in person. The crowd reaction to a white officer giving a black officer a false name so that the whi
Liz Mc2
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
My second Smith collection of the year. A number of these poems are “public” in their themes, perhaps reflecting Smith’s role as poet laureate, like “Declaration,” an erasure poem made up of phrases from the Declaration of Independence. These are powerful, but the more personal poems were my favourites, like “Urban Youth,” in which the speaker describes her father and brothers teaching her to ride a bike. She tells her older brother: “Every happy thing I’ve known / You held, or ran alongside not ...more
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tracy K. Smith's poems are beginning too make my soul feel inadequate. These poems are poetry, what poetry should be. It's feeling and beauty and truth all congealed into one beautiful collection. As always the woman reminds the reader what feeling is, and how words can create them in the first place.
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry, the-dirty, the-bad
Unpopular Opinion Time 🐸☕

Wow…mmm…no. Absolutely no.

I’m sorry but I did not like this collection in the slightest.
For as much as the writing style was unique, I couldn’t - for the life of me - feel any kind of interest or emotion towards these poems.

Detached and bored. That was me while reading this work.
I’m sorry but this was just simply not for me \_(ツ)_/
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Another great poetry collection from Tracy K Smith. Some of these poems are quite nostalgic and beautiful. Others deal with the history of racism in the US. Finally, some are simple observations about her children. I loved this whole collection.
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have always been told about this specific author. I have been wanting to read her book for awhile and when I noticed that she wrote a new book. It was time for me to put it on hold at the library. I will probably be reading her other books as well since she was able to grab my attention with this specific book. Wade In The Water has a unique theme and the name of the book gives somewhat of an insight to what the book is all about. I went into full detail on my blog:
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I truly enjoyed this collection. Smith's poetry is always radically empathic - it reaches out to understand, to see, to make space for the humanity in all of us while never shying away from difficult truths. It is as if her work takes E.M. Forster's "Only Connect," as dictum.

In this collection the frame and context is wide. The poems' subjects are personal, historical, and political.

I found many of the poems moving, but the 2nd section of historical poems reckoning with the United State's hist
Sophia Hanson
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
My dad heard I was having a rough time here in the city, so to cheer me up he sent me a book of poetry he had seen and thought I might like. I was already predisposed to love this book no matter what because it was just such a goddamn sweet gesture. But even if he had not given it to me, I would have adored Wade in the Water.

Though it is only 75 pages, Tracy K. Smith’s Wade in the Water packs a punch. And it should. She is the Poet Laureate of the United States. Her poetry is raw, honest, and de
Lindsey Z
Jul 25, 2018 rated it liked it
There were a few gems in this collection for sure that I will go back and reread. I appreciate how Smith takes documents from the Civil War and recrafts them to better capture the oft untold African American point of view, but I did feel like I was just reading documents and not poetry. I loved the found poem about companies dumping chemicals in low income neighborhoods (“Watershed”). I loved the title poem and her reference to the African diasporic practice of the ring shout. When she tells a s ...more
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
America is a country of ghosts, haunted by a past that is willfully ignored due to selective cultural amnesia and the cavalier attitude that the only history is that ordained by those in power. That amnesia is a deadly lens through which to view the past as it distorts the present. Especially deadly for black Americans and refugees landing here in the midst of our rising nationalism. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith gives voice to those ghost and wraiths that wander America, conjuring their voices i ...more
Aug 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The "erasure" poems are the stars in this new collection by poet laureate Tracy K. Smith. In one, "Declaration," Smith has whittled down the Declaration of Independence to seventeen short lines. When read through the lens of the African American slave and Jim Crow realities, the poem is an implicit, but all the more powerful for being so, indictment of the failure of white Americans to live by our own foundational principles.

In another derivative poem, "I Will Tell You the Truth about This, I Wi
D.A. Gray
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tracy K. Smith leads the reader from a vision of a history not whitewashed in ‘official accounts,’ a history revealed in the voices of those who suffered its effects most directly. Whether her poems breath life into voices from another century, or reveal through a more personal account of a mother watching her daughter race to achieve adulthood they dig deep into a place that rejects stereotype, and painted over ‘facts.’
An example of how, when history becomes too altered by political agenda to
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was skeptical after not really enjoying Life on Mars, but I connected much more with the variety and content of the poems in this collection.

I go back and forth on the perceived originality of the "black-out" Declaration of Independence poems and "found" slave-letter poems, but, in all fairness, I probably wouldn't have encountered the texts in any other context.

I was most sold on the final (of four) group of poems, in which Smith portrays the parenting experience in a voice I haven't encounte
Alyssa (redheadreads)
This was a mixed bag covering a lot of different topics and themes. I didn’t like it as much as Life on Mars, but the historical pieces and the pieces about refugees were really strong and beautiful.

Smith gets a little lost in abstraction. I couldn’t tell you what was happening or what some of the poems were about, but overall it was still worth the read.
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved most the ways Smith incorporated historical material and made it her own. There is a very poignant erasure poem using the text of the Declaration of Independence, for example. But the one - rather long - poem I will come back to again and again is 'I Will Tell You the Truth about This, I Will Tell You All about It" which is composed of snippets from letters by African Americans enlisted in the Civil War and their family members. This poem keeps their voices so vivid when they speak about ...more
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A gorgeous collection. The second section, a series of poems based on the testimony and writings of enslaved and newly freed people before, during, and after the Civil War, is heart-breaking and breath-taking.
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TRACY K. SMITH is the author of two previous collections: Duende, winner of the James Laughlin Award and the Essence Literary Award, and The Bodys Question, winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. She is also the recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award and a Whiting Writers Award, and was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work. Smith is currently a protg in ...more
“Is it strange to say love is a language
Few practice, but all, or near all speak?”
I am you, one day out of five,
Tired, empty, hating what I carry
But afraid to lay it down, stingy,
Angry, doing violence to others
By the sheer freight of my gloom,
Halfway home, wanting to stop, to quit
But keeping going mostly out of spite.
More quotes…