Word Comix

Charlie Smith, Author . Norton $23.95 (79p) ISBN 978-0-393-06762-0

Smith’s thrilling seventh collection begins with an odd invocation of its audience: “I Speak to Fewer People,” reads the opening poem’s title. Smith’s speaker is an all too self-aware rogue, running the gamut from romantic to misanthropic, “talking about romance or trucks.” Sudden shifts—from high to low, from archaisms to slang, from swagger to sadness—render “all life a contortion pressed through a slot in time.” Jagged lines move casually through politics, nature, love, loss, beauty and waste, their sneaky pathos (“taking out the trash and you/ get lonely sometimes”) balanced by a cynical wit (“I got caught/ a few years ago in an internet scam, and/ spent several months/ retrieving my identity”). Smith rues a hardness that comes with experience, age or both, observing that “you keep trying to hold your meanness back,” but he’s never too hard to resist a punch line. Smith’s velocity is captivating and occasionally unnerving: this poetry will hold your hand the whole way, though in all its swerving and speed, it pauses for moments of delicate and unexpected loveliness: “The ocean yesterday was smooth over lumps like a blanket.” (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/17/2008
Release date: 01/01/2009
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Paperback - 79 pages - 978-0-393-33819-5
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