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About this poet

Bruce Smith was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Bucknell University.

Smith is the author of six poetry collections, including Devotions (University of Chicago Press, 2011), which was the recipient of the 2012 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. His second collection, Silver and Information (University of Georgia Press, 1985), was selected by Hayden Carruth as the winner of the National Poetry Series.

Smith’s honors include the Discovery/The Nation prize and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2010, he received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2014, he was named a Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome.

Smith has taught at Boston, Harvard, and Tufts universities, as well as at Portland State, Lewis & Clark College, and the University of Alabama. In 2002, he joined the faculty at the University of Syracuse, where he is a professor of English. He lives in Syracuse, New York.


Bibliography

Poetry

Devotions (University of Chicago Press, 2011)
Songs for Two Voices (University of Chicago Press, 2005)
The Other Lover (University of Chicago Press, 1999)
Mercy Seat (University of Chicago Press, 1994)
Silver and Information (University of Georgia Press, 1985)
The Common Wages (Sheep Meadow Press, 1983)

Beautiful Throat

Beheadings, slaughter of the innocents, suffering
and sorrow say all the stabbed, ecstatic art
of the museums and more of the same
says the news, the glowing, after glowing now
what, but also in the crowded galleries babies held
by mothers looking at babies being artfully held
in the celestial rain, the fat buttery ones, part putto,
part lard who appear ready to slip from mother’s arms
out of the frame into smoke and storm, the non-art part
of the world, that disobedient, expensive part
like a furious sea you paid to cross in an inflatable
plastic raft, a child’s toy in a bath it looks like
from America where we have no fate
we can’t make. Fate is guns and money
swamping the stars. Fate is the bewitched mixture
of fuel with sea water that incinerates the self.
Fate is the decree of childhood evaporating into
unauthorized space where the I/you is so much
questioning and answering non-art. In art
I see the gold leaf, the gashes, the beautiful throats
and hear the trauma arias of martyrdom
that are the same in non-art deserts and cities.
There are two schools: one that sings
the sheen and hues, the necessary pigments
and frankincense while the world dries
and the other voice like water that seeks
to saturate, erode, and boil. It can’t be handled.
It can’t be marble. It wants to pool and rise
and rain and soak the root systems. It ruins
everything you have ever saved.

Copyright © 2017 Bruce Smith. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

Copyright © 2017 Bruce Smith. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

Bruce Smith

Smith is the author of six poetry collections, including Devotions (University of Chicago Press, 2011), which was the recipient of the 2012 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.

by this poet

poem
after Alice Oswald

Take away my engine and I shall engineless go
to find you. Take away my bees
and I will flowerless walk the vectors of sweet
nothings until I’m face to face with Monsanto.

In my doomed town where small mechanic skills
make the evenings strung out and shrill
with compressors and vapors, I
poem
I walked in the romantic garden and I walked
in the garden of ruin. I walked in the green-skinned,
black-skinned garden of Osiris who was ripped to pieces
and reformed and adored. I walked in that wet,
incestuous plot. Am I the only one who reads
for innocence? I walked in the garden of Amadou Diallo
whose shadow
poem

Are they unmaking everything?
Are they tuning the world sitar?
Are they taking an ice pick to being?
Are they enduring freedom in Kandahar?

Sounds, at this distance, like field hollers,
sounds like they’ll be needing CPR.
Sounds like the old complaint of love and dollars.