CoPo of the Mo’ 3

September 10, 2010

Bruce Smith does not have the name of someone who aspires to be famous. The last sentence (out of three) of his Wikipedia biography reads, “That’s all, that’s it.” He writes poems; he has been published; he has taught at two universities. But this man understands something about sound and lyricism. His is the kind of poetry that begs, on both knees, to be read aloud. Smith likes to think of poetry as akin to songwriting:

“When the language works to seduce and . . . move us, when it works its blues on us, bounces us and trembles us, makes us swerve from our upright and rational propositions . . . we are thinking and listening at the same time or really listening and not thinking, like a good song does.”

The Poetry Foundation was much more forthcoming about Smith’s biography than Wikipedia. Most importantly, the foundation lists his influences: Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. I would be really interested to see what some of the Whitmaniacs, or people familiar with Whitman and Dickinson’s work, think about Smith’s poetry! See, I italicized it so you can’t ignore it!

The poem below, “Obbligato,” is my favorite of the ones listed on the website; I also enjoyed “February Sky,” and, if you don’t mind Googling to find it, you should look up “Goodbye Tuscaloosa.”


Late August was a pressure drop,
rain, a sob in the body,

a handful of air
with a dream in it,

summer was desperate
to paradise itself with blackberry

drupelets and swarms, everything
polychromed, glazed, sprinkler caps

gushing, the stars like sweat
on a boxer’s skin. A voice

from the day says
Tax cuts

for the rich or scratch
what itches or it’s a sax

from Bitches Brew,
and I’m a fool

for these horns
and hues, this maudlin

light. It’s a currency of feeling
in unremembered March.

There’s a war on and snow in the
where we’ve made our desire stop

and start. In the dying school of Bruce
I’m the student who still believes

in the bad taste of the beautiful
and the sadness of songs
made in the ratio
of bruise for bruise.

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