Friday, February 22, 2008

Tracy K. Smith, ESSENCE Award in Poetry

Graywolf just announced that Tracy K. Smith, whose second collection, DUENDE, took the 2006 James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets, has now won the first annual ESSENCE Literary Award in poetry. Hurrah! While I wait for my copy, I've enjoyed the snippets on the Graywolf web site. Here's my fave, from the long title poem:



And not just them. Not just
The ramshackle family, the tios,
Primitos, not just the bailaor
Whose heels have notched
And hammered time
So the hours flow in place
Like a tin river, marking
Only what once was.

Not just the voices scraping
Against the river, nor the hands
Nudging them farther, fingers
Like blind birds, palms empty,
Echoing. Not just the women
With sober faces and flowers
In their hair, the ones who dance
As though they’re burying
Memory – one last time –
Beneath them.
And I hate to do it here.
To set myself heavily beside them.
Not now that they’ve proven
The body a myth, parable
For what not even language
Moves quickly enough to name.
If I call it pain, and try to touch it
With my hands, my own life,
It lies still and the music thins,
A pulse felt for through garments.
If I lean into the desire it starts from –
If I lean unbuttoned into the blow
Of loss after loss, love tossed
Into the ecstatic void –
It carries me with it farther,
To chords that stretch and bend
Like light through colored glass.
But it races on, toward shadows
Where the world I know
And the world I fear
Threaten to meet.

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