Life on Mars

Life on Mars

Poems

Book - 2011
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Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize

* Poet Laureate of the United States *
* A New York Times Notable Book of 2011 and New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice *
* A New Yorker, Library Journal and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year *

New poetry by the award-winning poet Tracy K. Smith, whose "lyric brilliance and political impulses never falter" ( Publishers Weekly , starred review)

You lie there kicking like a baby, waiting for God himself
To lift you past the rungs of your crib. What
Would your life say if it could talk?
--from "No Fly Zone"


With allusions to David Bowie and interplanetary travel, Life on Mars imagines a soundtrack for the universe to accompany the discoveries, failures, and oddities of human existence. In these brilliant new poems, Tracy K. Smith envisions a sci-fi future sucked clean of any real dangers, contemplates the dark matter that keeps people both close and distant, and revisits the kitschy concepts like "love" and "illness" now relegated to the Museum of Obsolescence. These poems reveal the realities of life lived here, on the ground, where a daughter is imprisoned in the basement by her own father, where celebrities and pop stars walk among us, and where the poet herself loses her father, one of the engineers who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope. With this remarkable third collection, Smith establishes herself among the best poets of her generation.

Publisher: Minneapolis, Minnesota : Graywolf Press, [2011]
ISBN: 9781555975845
1555975844
Characteristics: 75 pages ; 23 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

"I picked it up for the title. I'm a big David Bowie fan. All the poems deal with parallel places in space, and a longing for another world. Leaves a great taste of poetry in your mouth."--Ryan for Holiday Gift Shelf Help at Kansas City Public Library

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RyanR_KCMO Jan 30, 2020

I picked up this book on a recommendation without expectation. I was immediately enraptured with the voice, the cadence, and the imagery Smith paints to fill out her expressions. I held on to these poems, rereading them and tasting the words in my mouth. This collection is my first five-star read... Read More »


From the critics


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l
lukasevansherman
May 01, 2021

Yes, that is a Bowie reference. One of several. Smith served as U.S. poet laureate from 2017-2019.

d
danielestes
Oct 08, 2020

I'm fairly new to the world of poetry, and this Pulitzer prize-winning book came highly recommended. Tracy K. Smith's poems are challenging in what they convey, at least they were at the beginning. My first self-taught lesson of poetry was to stop trying so hard to understand and just let go. By simply focusing on the words, perhaps trying to encapsulate them by how they sounded aloud, I started to arrive at some version of understanding. It was hard to know for sure because it was never blindingly obvious, and certainly never the same each time, but it felt right and realizing that also felt fight. I can foresee this being an ongoing introspective pursuit.

In one of my favorite movies, "Contact" starring Jodie Foster, there's a line near the end of the movie where her character, while staring at a never-before-seen celestial event, says, "I have no words to describe it. They should've sent a poet." I like to imagine Tracy K. Smith's "Life on Mars" is an answer to that call.

DBRL_IdaF Jun 17, 2020

This book combines many elements I like: poetry, science fiction, and David Bowie. A couple of these poems will punch you in the gut, while others will have you simply nodding your head in recognition, and yet more will elicit a response of, "Wow! Cool!"

RyanR_KCMO Jan 30, 2020

I picked up this book on a recommendation without expectation. I was immediately enraptured with the voice, the cadence, and the imagery Smith paints to fill out her expressions. I held on to these poems, rereading them and tasting the words in my mouth. This collection is my first five-star read of 2020. If you have ever wondered about human permanence or gazed into the night sky while listening to David Bowie, you will find some meaningful stuff in here.

r
rixonkj
Dec 28, 2019

Gorgeous poetry about grief that came to me at a time when I needed it.

b
bisqit
May 07, 2018

The book left me confused about some of her references. I guess, being much older, I'm out of date.

a
abcDena
Sep 22, 2016

It's been a while since I tried a new poet, and Tracy K. Smith was so rewarding. She is a very skilled word slinger, creating images, patterns and rhythms with words unlike anything I've ever read before. Even the dreariest images, the frantic, the unsettling -- they were all somehow musical because of her use of internal rhyme and general wordplay. This is a must-own.

d
DorisWaggoner
Aug 24, 2016

This brief volume of poetry runs the gamut, from David Bowie's songs to Arthur C. Clarke's Space 2001 to Abu Ghraib and her father's death. Mostly free verse, reading like conversation. One of my favorites is about a therapist who helped her a lot, until her reaction to him began to feel like "a date with a friend," and she knew she'd gotten everything she could from him. Her father's work as an engineer on the Hubble Telescope is clearly an influence as well. I've read her later memoir about her mother, and recommend that as well. In fact, that memoir led me to her poetry.

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