Life On Mars

by Tracy K. Smith

and

Book of Hours

by Kevin Young

MONDAY, MARCH 28, 2022
7 – 8:30 p.m.

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Synopsis

Life on Mars: Poems
Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize
Poet Laureate of the United States *
A New York Times Notable Book of 2011 and New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice *
A New Yorker, Library Journal and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year *
You lie there kicking like a baby, waiting for God himself
To lift you past the rungs of your crib. What
Would your life say if it could talk?
—from “No Fly Zone”

With allusions to David Bowie and interplanetary travel, Life on Mars imagines a soundtrack for the universe to accompany the discoveries, failures, and oddities of human existence. In these brilliant new poems, Tracy K. Smith envisions a sci-fi future sucked clean of any real dangers, contemplates the dark matter that keeps people both close and distant, and revisits the kitschy concepts like “love” and “illness” now relegated to the Museum of Obsolescence. These poems reveal the realities of life lived here, on the ground, where a daughter is imprisoned in the basement by her own father, where celebrities and pop stars walk among us, and where the poet herself loses her father, one of the engineers who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope. With this remarkable third collection, Smith establishes herself among the best poets of her generation.
(From the Publisher)

Book of Hours: Poems

An NEA Big Read selection
Named one of 10 essential poetry titles for 2014 by Library Journal
Winner, Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets
Finalist, Kingsley Tufts Award
Winner, Donald Justice Award
A beautiful book of both grief and birth from the award-winning poet whose work thrills his audience with its immediate emotional impact and musical riffs.
A decade after the sudden and tragic loss of the poet’s father, we witness the unfolding of his grief. “In the night I brush / my teeth with a razor,” he tells us, in one of the collection’s piercing two-line poems. Young captures the strange silence of bereavement: “Not the storm/ but the calm/ that slays me.” But the poet acknowledges, even celebrates, life’s passages, his loss transformed and tempered in a sequence describing the birth of his son: in “Crowning,” he delivers what is surely one of the most powerful birth poems written by a man, describing “her face / full of fire, then groaning your face / out like a flower, blood-bloom, / crocused into air.” Ending this book of birth and grief, the gorgeous title sequence brings acceptance, asking “What good//are wishes if they aren’t/ used up?” while understanding “How to listen/ to what’s gone.”
(From the Publisher)

Reading Group Discussion Questions

Book Club Questions Forthcoming

Additional Book Club Resources

Other Works by Tracy K. Smith
Poetry Collections
The Body’s Question (2003)
Duende (2007)
Life on Mars (2011)
Wade in the Water (2018)
Other Works by Kevin Young
Poetry Collections
Most Way Home (1995)
To Repel Ghosts: Five Sides in B Minor (2001)
Jelly Roll: A Blues (2003)
To Repel Ghosts: Remixed from the Original Masters (2005)
Black Maria: Being the Adventures of Delilah Redbone & A.K.A. Jones: Poems (2005)
For the Confederate Dead: Poems (2007)
Dear Darkness: Poems (2008)
Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels (2011)
Book of Hours: Poems (2014)
Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems, 1995-2015 (2016)
Brown: Poems (2018)

Non-Fiction
Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News (2017)

If You Liked these collections, may we recommend …

African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song, Kevin Young (Editor)
Lighthead: Poems, Terrance Hayes
Bright Dead Things: Poems, Ada Limón
The Tradition, Jericho Brown
When My Brother Was an Aztec, Natalie Díaz
Bestiary: Poems, Donika Kelly
Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Ocean Vuong
The Malevolent Volume, Justin Phillip Reed
Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems, Danez Smith
Soft Science, Choi Franny
Incarnadine: Poems, Mary Szybis