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The Body's Question

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  342 ratings  ·  45 reviews
You are pure appetite. I am pure
Appetite. You are a phantom
In that far-off city where daylight
Climbs cathedral walls, stone by stolen stone.
--from "Self-Portrait as the Letter Y"

Confronting loss, historical intersections with race and family, and the threshold between childhood and adulthood, Smith gathers courage and direction from the many disparate selves encountered in these poems, until,/>--from/>Climbs/>In/>Appetite.
Paperback, 72 pages
Published October 1st 2003 by Graywolf Press
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Average rating 4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  342 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Debut collection of poetry in 2002 by Tracy K Smith, current poet laureate of the United States. Even with this early writing of hers, one could sense that she was destined for poetry stardom. Luscious words, straddling two cultures, thought provoking prose of time and place. I have now read all of her poetry collections and will either have to wait impatiently for the next one or go back and read all of her other work. Tracy K Smith is the poet I am most drawn to, and one of few authors that I ...more
Aug 20, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Meh . . . a couple good lines and images, but mostly Contemporary Poetry. Lots of poems that end with a single image (usually a capital-M Metaphor) trying to perfectly wrap things up by not appearing to be a definite ending. Sometimes they work, but mostly I just notice how she's trying. Maybe Duende is better.
Oct 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Studded with brilliant imagery.
James Tierney
Jan 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
So redolent of speech that it's too perfect for speaking. Is that one of poetry's definitions?
tortoise dreams
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
The first book of poems by the Poet Laureate of the United States.

Poetry Review: The Body's Question is an amazing first book, and reassuring in that contemporary American poets are still writing poetry this wonderful. Tracy K. Smith creates within the great tradition of lyric poetry, but her poems are fresh, individual, and modern (yet retro enough to capitalize every line). Too many poets today write poetry so opaque that it couldn't be deciphered by a CIA analyst. Or write poems so accessible there's little subst/>Poetry
Aug 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
A strong debut.
Micah Horton hallett
Tracy K. Smith. Tracy K. Smith. Tracy K. f*cking Smith. She makes me want to make words again, but infects me with her language and lineation so that I am not sure where my work begins and where my ineffectual echo of her ends. She makes me want to weep, she makes me weep- and laugh and nod and raise my fist. She has FLOW, like the best of performance poets- she has wisdom and makes pictures in my head that ebb and flow and I need her to release another book now. Please.
Jan 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Not the flame, but what it promised,
Surrender. To be quenched of danger.
I torched toothpicks to watch them
Curl around themselves like living things,
Panicked and aglow. I would wake,
Sheets wrinked and damp, and rise
From that print of myself,
From that sleep-slack dummy self.
Make me light.

No one missed my shadow
Moving behind the house, so I led it
To the dry creek-bed and laid it down
Among thistledown, nettle,
Things that hate water/>Make
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I would give this book 6 stars if I could, or 600. I read our Poet Laureate's books in reverse order, Life on Mars when it first came out, and only got to Duende and this recently. This might be my favorite. The voice is so beguiling, by turns colloquial and sophisticated, with so many arresting images and metaphors.
Emily Green
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
The Body’s Question, winner of the Cave Canem prize, is Tracy K. Smith’s first book of poetry. Kevin Young’s introduction is quite brilliant and points out a lot what is beautiful about the book. The metaphors in the book are not as explosively surprising as what I prefer, but there is a lot to admire in this book.

Her control of the line is pretty genius. Take “Self Portrait as the Letter Y:”
Was kind of a rebel then.
Took two cars. Took
Bad advice. Watched people’s
Aug 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I'd say this is 2.5 stars, partway between "it was OK" and "I liked it". Smith's word-smithing is great, but often I felt like I loved certain lines but that the entire poem lacked a coherent center. She'd lose me about halfway through, I'd reread a line and love it, then try to reread the whole poem and get lost in the same way again. Perhaps subsequent readings will help.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it
As with _Life on Mars_, I really wanted to like this book of poetry more. I love Smith’s use of language. While there were a few poems I loved (such as “Mangoes” and “Appetite”), so many of the poems lack enough context or concreteness for me to make sense of them. They seem to be written to herself or to a specific person, not the general reader.
Jack Heller
Oct 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is the fourth book I have read by Smith. Here, in her first book, she reminds me of Rita Dove in GRACE NOTES. A lot to like in the imagery, but the contexts are personal to Smith. Therefore, there will be always some distance and limitation for the reader, to know whom Smith is writing about, and why. I enjoy the collection, but I would recommend her more recent collections first.
Lynda M
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I like the fact that her poetry is personal and intimate, yet she provides windows and doors that allow you to enter in and look around. We see the private universe(al) through her eyes and voice without seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps because there is no tunnel.
Nov 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
Maybe more like a 2.5 from me. Just not a big fan.

Must agree with Goodreads reviewer Scott, who said: “So many of the poems lack enough context or concreteness for me to make sense of them. They seem to be written to herself or to a specific person, not the general reader.”

Nov 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
The Body's Question is a collection which includes some great moments of language--images and lines that demand the reader stops to consider them, to see things differently, to encounter voices removed by time and distance but deeply personal in their unexpected capturing of humanity.
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I loved this book of poetry by Tracy K Smith...three poems that really stood out for me were: Drought, Betty Blue and Joy...
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
A great collection of poems, which I will probably keep revisiting later.
Twila Newey
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
She deserves all her awards. Her poems are sharp and clear and dreamy. Evocative and the language hits the right note nearly every time. It is really something. Starting Duende Poems today.
Mary Cassidy
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Complex, powerful poems by the present Poet Laureate of the USA. They demand a reread, so will comment then.
Sonia Allison
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hurry read these

crying crying crying
lost friend found words
graveside families
poems of Black Women
voice vote vive
how we living
Mindy Rose
Dec 14, 2017 rated it liked it
poetry. 3/5.
Miranda Lukeman
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Filled with life, exceptional imagery, and the language only poetry can speak. Tracy K. Smith, thank you.
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is an infinite thing. How many times can I return to it?
Antonio Delgado
Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Memories of the body in different positions, states and qualities (movement, rest, eating, dreaming - because the body dreams -, the immigrant body, the female body) speak throughout these poems. For Tracy K. Smith the body speaks many languages, while always becoming a foreign entity to itself.
Nikolas Kalar
Though Smith has been in the public eye (or, the literary public eye or the poetical public eye) since she won the Cave Canem Prize for this collection all the way back in 2002, I've only recently become a fan of hers, maybe about a year ago, when I picked up and fell in love with her most recent poetry collection Life on Mars, and continued to love her volume of memoir Ordinary Light. Now as I go backwards and explore her earlier works, I can see how she has grown as an artist.

The B
Katie Shields
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Tracy's interpretations on the Slowdown podcast really resonate with me. I picked this collection up because I wanted to read the poems she wrote in response to her mother's death. I enjoyed those, but other poems did not resonate with me as much.
Jessica Furtado
Mar 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Tracy K. Smith is one of my favorite contemporary poets. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the AWP book fair in Boston last month, and she is a wonderfully genuine person. This collection is not my favorite of hers. Though there are stunning images in every piece, there are only a handful that strike me as a whole. Tracy's later work is more developed and her voice more cultivated, but one can see the seeds of her raw, vibrant language planted in "The Body's Question."
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
There were some poems I liked, in particular "Appetite," but overall I didn't find the collection incredibly moving or incising, which is what I really want from poetry--revelation. I haven't read Life On Mars, the collection for which she received the Pulitzer, so I'd be interested to see if I like that any better.
Sep 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
My favorite of Smith's books, she is mysterious and effortless and her images are exquisite. My jaw dropped at some of her line breaks, at each elegant turn of phrase that punched me in the gut. How does this all spin out of her so easily? Overall, the collection is a bit too long, but it hits more than it misses, and when it hits... Oof.
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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 the Rolex Mentor ...more
“We want so much,
When perhaps we live best
In the spaces between loves,

That unconscious roving,
The heart its own rough animal.
More quotes…