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The Body's Question.

by Tracy K. Smith Graywolf Press, October 2003 $14.00, ISBN 1-555-97391-4

Smith, winner of the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, is a philosopher in the traditional sense. Her first collection of poems interrogates the nature of physical and the metaphysical knowledge. At the core of these is desire, and Smith leads us, dreamlike, through its fecund terrain.

The speaker of these poems, who is frequently unidentifiable, seems sincerely to lament the failure of language to help us comprehend the abstractions of love, loss and hunger. The reader thrills at this failure. Smith clearly rejects the notion of resolution. Like Scheherazade weaving a perpetual present, these poems resist closure. Not borne out of fear, their resistance proves sometimes there's more satisfaction in hunger than in satiety: "the weight of voices not speaking." In "Appetite" we read: "No one with his hand always returning/ to the hollow below her back."

"Fire Escape Fantasy" shows Smith's penchant for striking the balance, and she does so with lyric aplomb. This poem ends in what can stand as the guiding principle of the book: "Success must hurt. Must yield sharp evidence./ I'll have to lie to get it./ Like love."

Gregory Pardlo is an associate editor of Painted Bride Quarterly.
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Author:Pardlo, Gregory
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2004
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