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Wade in the Water

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,482 ratings  ·  254 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 everlast
...more
Hardcover, 75 pages
Published April 3rd 2018 by Graywolf Press
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4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,482 ratings  ·  254 reviews


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Roxane
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Brina
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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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
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Lauren
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
“You want a poem to unsettle something." ◾Tracy K. Smith

Wade in the Water: Poems was my third collection by Smith, the current Poet Laureate of the United States. While I liked her earlier works of Duende and Life on Mars, this new collection is my favorite of her work.

Smith uses multiple poetic and dramatic styles - erasure poems gathered from slave correspondence in the Civil War (the whole stunning 'Unwritten' series), source materials of the Declaration of Independence ('Declaration'), and l
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Ken
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Jill Mackin
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Robyn
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ellie
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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, 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)
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).
Tam_ the_ med_bookie
This is my first book of poetry based on history regarding opression and war times.
The dates and the ways how people got ill-treated are portrayed well.
Some poems need to be reread; the
The poems are indeed very powerful.
Kudos👍
Celia
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
A few sharp, resonant images aside, this pretty much left me cold. Most of these poems read like vertically-stacked prose.
Drew
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The best around, these days. Just fantastic stuff.
Rita Schuldt
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.
Dana Sweeney
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Will return later to write a full review, but let it suffice to say that Tracy K. Smith is simply a genius. An utterly breathtaking collection of poetry, a few of which I dare say are even perfect.
Katie
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Keely
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another great collection from Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. In Wade in the Water, she gets more experimental than what I saw from her in Life on Mars. Section II features some compelling erasure poems, including "Declaration," which strategically erases verbiage from the Declaration of Independence to say something new about oppression in America. "I Will Tell You the Truth about This, I Will Tell You All about It" does the same thing with letters from former slaves seeking family, seeking justi ...more
Nancy
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Finished: 19.05.2019
Genre: poetry
Rating: A+++
#TS Eliot Prize Finalist 2018
Conclusion:

Don't be discouraged to start a book
...even after reading the 2-star reviews.

Comments after my first reading of all the poems in the train:

I read all the poems…could not find any emotional ‘feeling’
with this collection.
I was so disappointed and was about to give this book a 2 score.
Then I told myself…go to bed…sleep on it.
Poet Laureate USA, graduate of Harvard,
…studied with the eminent Helen Vendler (see
...more
Giulia
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, the-bad, the-dirty
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)_/
...more
Joshua
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
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.
Lance
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Powerful
Amy
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wade in the Water:Poems reminded me the most of Lincoln in the Bardo in that it aimed for elegy and verse with history (even including first person testimonials that may or may not be real) and storytelling however unlike Bardo, it succeeded mightily. Interesting and diverse sections that span the American, the outcast, the mother, the underprivileged and the slave experience (sometimes all at once).

Narrated by the author which mostly worked except that the speed and pauses felt slow even at 1.
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Bruce
Aug 20, 2018 rated it liked it
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
...more
Ryan
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Katie Karnehm-Esh
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
What an incredible, gorgeous book of interesting and varied poems. Smith includes a section of erasure poems (the Declaration of Independence, letters between a slave-owning couple) as well as poems made up of letters from African-Americans conscripted into the civil war. She carries an echo of these poems forward in her gorgeous "Unrest in Baton Rouge" which I could read every day for the rest of my life. Go buy it.
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.
SabirSultan
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Play Book Tag: Wade in the Water: Poems - Tracy K. Smith (4 stars) 2 8 Apr 18, 2019 09:25PM  

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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
“History is a ship forever setting sail.” 1 likes
“Is it strange to say love is a language
Few practice, but all, or near all speak?”
1 likes
More quotes…