Wade in the Water - Tracy K. Smith

Staff Pick

“History is a ship forever setting sail.” It’s “in a hurry”—a “bus that will only wait so long.” It’s “a past/ That’s gone, but won’t lie down/And let us grieve it.” Most of all, in Smith’s stunning fourth collection, history is voices. To her own sure, lyrical voice (and impeccable ear for sound and rhythm) Smith adds those of migrants, victims of hate crimes, workers, freed slaves, and those who nearly died. Throughout this choral masterpiece of a book, she gives us the testimonies history has silenced. Using erasure to stunning effect, Smith reveals a long overlooked and urgent “Declaration” within the original Declaration of Independence, paring the hallowed document down to seventeen spare lines. These include “our” nine times, and Smith forces us to see how incomplete this proclamation was and still is. Who exactly is the “we” it represents? A case in point is Smith’s moving series of erasure poems drawn from letters written by African Americans during and after the Civil War. Addressed to spouses, children, and even Abraham Lincoln, the letters, many by former Union soldiers, are poignant pleas for the things most basic to human dignity: a united family, wages, a military pension, healthcare, and in one instance, “the name of the baby/ that was born Since I left.” Here and elsewhere, Smith spotlights names—those history recognizes, and those it doesn’t. Smith herself names the authors of the texts she uses and devotes her own fine “Ghazal” to reclaiming that “stolen crop: our name.”

Wade in the Water: Poems Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555978136
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Graywolf Press - April 3rd, 2018

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