Sunday, April 29, 2012

Poetry Monday: Tracy K Smith's The Universe: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Tracy K Smith's Life on Mars won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry this year. I know all the controversy surrounding the prize (and prizes in general). As a fiction writer, I do feel sure that they could have done better with the shortlist, and found a winner among all the wonderful (finished) books published this year (I could suggest a few...), nevertheless, I'm prepared to forgive the Pulitzer committee anything for choosing this book: a book that unites an astronomical longing that I'm afraid has never left me since I was a child watching swirling galaxies at the Hayden Planetarium, with very human emotions like grief, loneliness, loss, and joy, and adds in a fun dose of kitsch, pop stars (one of whom I idolised for years when I was a teenage nerd), sci-fi, and streetwise current events. If I'd designed my ideal poetry read, I couldn't have described it better (and it is the terrain, to a certain extent, of Repulsion Thrust). I've yet to fully sink my teeth into Life on Mars, and of course a full review will follow, but for today, here's a little taste. The poem is titled "The Universe: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack", and note that little snap of a rhyme ending that hits you like a delicious wake-up smack in the face.  

The first track still almost swings. High hat and snare, even
A few bars of sax the stratosphere will sing-out soon enough.

Synthesized strings. Then something like cellophane
Breaking in as if snagged to a shoe. Crinkle and drag. White noise,

Black noise. What must be voices bob up, then drop, like metal shavings
In molasses. So much for us. So much for the flags we bored

Into planets dry as chalk, for the tin cans we filled with fire
And rode like cowboys into all we tried to tame. Listen:

The dark we've only ever imagined now audible, thrumming,
Marbled with static like gristly meat. A chorus of engines churns.

Silence taunts: a dare. Everything that disappears
Disappears as if returning somewhere.

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