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May 21, 2009 Housing Works Bookstore, New York City From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Born on June 27, 1947 in Moultrie, Georgia, Charlie Smith served as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1968 to 1970, then went on to earn a B.A. from Duke University in 1971 and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 1984.

His debut collection of poems, Red Roads, was selected for the National Poetry Series and was published by Plume in 1987. It received the Great Lakes New Poets Award. His second collection, Indistinguishable from the Darkness, was published by W. W. Norton & Company in 1990.

Since then, Smith has published a number of other collections, most recently Word Comix (W. W. Norton & Co., 2009); Women of America (2004); Heroin and other poems (2000); Before and After (1995); and The Palms (1993).

He has also published five novels, including Cheap Ticket to Heaven (Henry Holt, 1996), Chimney Rock (1993), The Lives of the Dead (1990), Shine Hawk (1988), and Canaan (1985), and a collection of novellas entitled Crystal River (1991).

Charlie Smith lives in New York City.

Evasive Action

Charlie Smith, 1947
...the clip   ped possessive moment, the barber on his porch
cutting his son's hair, who looks for a second straight into the sun
and then back at his son's head now a golden, nodulous remnant,
a flower if he likes or Lenin's bumpy skull, he puts his scissors down
and goes inside and apologizes to his wife, who doesn't understand,
but who accepts his words like a private harvest she's storing up,
and then the son, who's going into the army, comes in, half cut,
and sees them and thinks he understands years of bickering,
but doesn't, and goes on to the battlefield where he writes his sister
saying we are not far from the truth of things, watching beyond his hand
two scorpions pick at each other, and thinks of days by the river, of his
father recovering from cancer, singing a song his grandmother memorized in Vienna 
and his father, who hated his own mother, cursing her, revoking the song,
and the next moment he's blown apart and then sent home in a metal coffin
and the parents and the sister get up early on the day of his funeral
and eat breakfast silently on the porch, and this is going on barber after barber.

"Evasive Action", from Word Comix by Charlie Smith. Copyright © 2009 by Charlie Smith. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company. All rights reserved.

Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Born on June 27, 1947 in Moultrie, Georgia, Charlie Smith is the author of several collections of poems, including Red Roads, which was selected for the National Poetry Series

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