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179 Book Notes Moments of profound tenderness drift between Mulvey’s harsher evocations of loss and death, and are strictly familial: in “Face,” the speaker is represented for once as only a father (and not also a foreigner, teacher, or émigré), accompanying his daughter through a medical procedure: “When I lift the pink cloth / I see a vent, pale eye of bone . . . my daughter exceeds me, / doesn’t cry . . .” We are here, Mulvey’s collection argues, not merely to narrate our lives or allow language to narrate itself (Stevens’s “blank propounding chord”) but to establish connections, to cross often self-imposed distinctions between nations and in the more intimate enclosure of self and other. The anchor of Mulvey’s collection is found in “Hundred-Day Visit,” when his Eastern deferentiality gives way (a paradox) to calm assertion, as he takes it upon himself to name the space that delimits, informs, and gives significance (the ultimate staved-off fear of the modern lyric?) to our lives: “This is the border, / this my daughter / waiting to be blessed.” Duende, by Tracy K. Smith Graywolf Press, 2007 reviewed by Craig Santos Perez Duende is mysterious power, earth-force, black sound, energetic instinct. Tracy K. Smith’s Duende, winner of the 2006 James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets, dances darkly within the blood of experience and the inconsolable wounds of death. According to Lorca, the duende “loves ledges and wounds” and “enters only those areas where form dissolves in a passion transcending any of its visible expressions.” Smith’s revision of Lorca occurs implicitly in the poems themselves as the passion of her work becomes woven into the poem’s textual expressions. The first poem in Duende, “History,” is one of its best. A serial epic faintly echoing Eliot’s “Waste Land,” the poem begins: “This is a poem about the itch / That stirs a nation at night. // This is a poem about all we’ll do / Not to scratch—” In the section titled “Occupation,” we truly witness a moment when passion and visible expression coincide: CRSP09 nonfiction.indd 179 1/30/2009 12:55:50 PM colorado review 180 Of course there are victims in this poem: victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim you are here victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim victim Not only are there victims in history, but there are literally “victims ” inscribed onto the textual body of the poem. And “you,” as in the reader, are amidst these victims and perhaps a possible victim yourself of some historical wound that haunts you at night and that you’ll do anything to ignore, including the invention of “entire stories to protect sleep.” “History” ends: “There are ways of naming the wound. // There are ways of entering the dream / The way a painter enters a studio: // To spill.” Throughout Duende, Smith shows us various ways to name wounds and to spill the secrets of our “opaque lives” onto the canvas of the white page. Besides exploring larger themes, such as history and myth, she also draws out the passion of relationships , as in “To Burn with a Low Blue Flame”: There is a vessel. You ask, and I give Myself over. I fill it, Knowing the descent To be what it will always Be. Knowing my heat Is merely pretext For what you’ll give Yourself into When my heat reaches you. I am not CRSP09 nonfiction.indd 180 1/30/2009 12:55:50 PM 181 Book Notes What you intend me to be. I know nothing Of what your body knows When it seeks To empty out of itself. Nor what it seeks To forget. Or to fill. Smith’s tight lines emphasize the filling of the page and the variable heat of break. The sensual and erotic quality of this poem burns not only through its surface prosody, but it also ascends from the deepest blue flame of duende. In “Diego,” we experience a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2325-730X
Print ISSN
1046-3348
Pages
pp. 179-182
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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