Tracy has published three books, including The Body's Question (Graywolf, 2003), which received the Cave Canem Book Prize, and Duende (Graywolf, 2007), and has received numerous awards for her work, including a Whiting Writers Award, the James Laughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Rona Jaffe Award, and the Essence Literary Award. Her poetry is precise, focused in its observation, sensuous but controlled in its language, suffused with emotion but never sentimental, and capable of drawing into clarity a world in just a few lines. Whatever she writes about--moments in history, her own or others--she brings all the tools of poetry to bear. She knows her stuff through and through. Here's a poem from her first book, The Body's Question.
A HUNGER SO LATE Driving home late through town He woke me for a deer in the road, The light smudge of it fragile in the distance, Free in a way that made me ashamed for our flesh— His hand on my hand, even the weight Of our voices not speaking. I watched a long time And a long time after we were too far to see, Told myself I still saw it nosing the shrubs, All phantom and shadow, so silent It must have seemed I hadn’t wakened, But passed into a deeper, more cogent state— The mind a dark city, a disappearing, A handkerchief Swallowed by a fist. I thought of the animal’s mouth And the hunger entrusted it. A hunger So honed the green leaves merely maintain it. We want so much, When perhaps we live best In the spaces between loves, That unconscious roving, The heart its own rough animal. Unfettered. The second time, There were two that faced us a moment The way deer will in their Greek perfection, As though we were just some offering The night had delivered. They disappeared between two houses, And we drove on, our own limbs, Our need for one another Greedy, weak.
Copyright © Tracy K. Smith, "A Hunger So Honed," from The Body's Question, Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2003. Al rights reserved.