A hard-hitting collection from the US Poet Laureate. At once vulnerable and empowered, it forces us to reckon with our country's fraught history and reconcile it with the injustice and inequality of today. The poems she created by splicing letters written by former slaves and by erasing parts of the Declaration of Independence are especially moving -- and especially haunting.
April 2018 Indie Next List
“In Wade in the Water, Smith masterfully makes herself into a medium through which the voices of other (forgotten) people can become poetry. 'I Will Tell You the Truth About This?' is a haunting and beautiful poem written using the letters and statements of African-Americans who enlisted as soldiers in the Civil War. Here, Smith is simultaneously the declarer and the creator of a space wherein others may be given room to declare. It is this balancing act that brings out the heart and beauty of Wade in the Water. The impersonal is made intimate, the world is made individual, and through it all, Smith guides us with true poetic sense. Wade in the Water is a necessary, beautiful book!”
— Eli Sorich, Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Minneapolis, MN
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.