Wade in the Water: Poems

Wade in the Water: Poems

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 everlasting street,
Skirt lifted by a different kind of breeze.

—from “Unrest in Baton Rouge”

In Wade in the Water, Tracy K. Smith boldly ties America’s contemporary moment both to our nation’s fraught founding history and to a sense of the spirit, the everlasting. These are poems of sliding scale: some capture a flicker of song or memory; some collage an array of documents and voices; and some push past the known world into the haunted, the holy. Smith’s signature voice—inquisitive, lyrical, and wry—turns over what it means to be a citizen, a mother, and an artist in a culture arbitrated by wealth, men, and violence. Here, private utterance becomes part of a larger choral arrangement as the collection widens to include erasures of The Declaration of Independence and the correspondence between slave owners, a found poem comprised of evidence of corporate pollution and accounts of near-death experiences, a sequence of letters written by African Americans enlisted in the Civil War, and the survivors’ reports of recent immigrants and refugees. Wade in the Water is a potent and luminous book by one of America’s essential poets.

Title:Wade in the Water: Poems
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About Tracy K. Smith

TRACY K. SMITH is the author of two previous collections:


    Wade in the Water: Poems Reviews

  • Roxane

    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 im...

  • Brina

    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 ...

  • Tori (InToriLex)

    Find this and other Reviews at In Tori LexThese 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...

  • Ken

    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 does...

  • Robyn

    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 ...

  • Imi

    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, hopi...

  • Rachel (Kalanadi)

    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 Ab...

  • Ellie

    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 n...

  • Celia

    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 n...

  • Shawn Mooney

    A few sharp, resonant images aside, this pretty much left me cold. Most of these poems read like vertically-stacked prose....