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Wade in the Water: Poems

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  2,448 ratings  ·  399 reviews
The extraordinary new poetry collection by Tracy K. Smith, the Poet Laureate of the United States

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 docum
Hardcover, 75 pages
Published April 3rd 2018 by Graywolf Press
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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. ...more
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
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
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
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
Oct 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetshere, atonement
Like love
From a lifetime ago, and mud
A dog has tracked across the floor.

This collection is blessed with myriad guises, a number of deft approaches, possibly designed to defy glib classification. Xenophobia and injustice are depicted from cover to cover but by different means. The use of actual letters from black Civil War veterans was especially effective. The insertion of the subaltern into the bureaucratic. Our arsenal of democracy appears to be depleted, our foundational myths have been found
Jill Mackin
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poet, poetry
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. ...more
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
Reading_ Tam_ Ishly
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.
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some excellent poetry by the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Some of her poetry was aligned to narrow parts of history and African American experience to move me deeply, but Ms. Smith is an amazingly creative artist.
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. ...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). ...more
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
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read Harder 2020 Challenge: An audiobook of poetry

I was a little skeptical of this challenge. Even though about 80% of my reading is done through audiobooks nowadays, I love to physically read poetry. I love to see the line breaks and such, and the placement of words in a poem can have as much meaning as the actual words.

That being said, I did enjoy listening to this collection of poetry. Tracy K. Smith narrates the audiobook, and this allows the listener to get a sense of how the writer wanted
Erin Cataldi
Jan 13, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021, genre-book-club
Broken into three parts; this stunning collection of poetry is lyrical and deep in intensity. From motherhood to slavery to contemplation each poem sucks the reader in and deserves to be savored. Tracey K. Smith is master of contemplation and care and this slim volume of poetry conveys deep meanings. Fans of poetry will eat this up and those new to prose will find themselves in love with the written word anew.
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Reflecting a range of poetic styles, including found poems and poems drawn from historical sources arranged to bring out the poetry of our lives, this volume by Tracy K. Smith deserves to be read aloud in families, groups of friends, congregations, and other communities.
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Seeing her as seldom as you do, it doesn’t change,
The ire, the shame, the fists you must remember

To smooth flat just thinking what they did,
What they promised, then took—those men

Who offered to pay, to keep, the clan of them
Lording it over the others like high school boys

And their kid brothers. Men with interests to protect,
And mute marble wives. Men who let her

Beam into their faces, watching her shoulders rise,
Her astonishing new breasts, making her bel
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
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The best around, these days. Just fantastic stuff.
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.
Edward Hoa
I really liked this book of poetry because it is as Tracy says, a shortcut to conversations we should be having. For me personally, this specific collection of poems truly did help me wade into the waters with respect to race in America. She does not use a hammer but really finds lot of subtle ways to immerse our thoughts in what it means to be black in America. I felt calmed, soothed, but also provoked and challenged. Highly recommend.
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.
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
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.
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
Dec 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
"The Angels" and "Hill Country" flat out confused me. GR reviewers helped me get somewhat of a grip on each. "Deadly" might depend on a belief system incompatible with mine or, at least as likely, i'm misreading it.

But then "A Man's World" and "The World Is Your Beautiful Younger Sister." A knockout combination.

Alas, i lost the thread again with the last 3 poems of section I, including the title poem, all originating (again, i suspect) in beliefs i cannot grasp or accept.

In Section III she offe
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

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
Hannah Berg
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
TKS’s poems are beautiful, great poems. There is a lot to learn from them and I hope I’ll keep returning to this collection, especially. But what somehow means more to me is that her poetry encourages and nourishes me. I feel more hopeful, even about the most horrible and evil things in the world, when I am in contact with artistic work that is as marinated in love—not just “love” as a feeling or idea, but love as a thoughtful, sometimes confusing approach to living and relating in the world—as ...more
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. ...more
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Tracy K. Smith is the author of Wade in the Water; Life on Mars, winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Duende, winner of the James Laughlin Award; and The Body’s Question, winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. She is also the editor of an anthology, American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time, and the author of a memoir, Ordinary Light, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. From 2017 to 2019, ...more

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