cover image Be Recorder

Be Recorder

Carmen Giménez Smith. Graywolf, $16 (96p) ISBN 978-1-55597-848-8

An autobiographical speaker (a mother and first-generation American) catalogues the flotsam and jetsam of late-stage capitalism in the stunning sixth collection from Smith (Milk and Filth). With a prophetic voice rooted in awareness of a dying planet, 20 poems and a middle lyric sequence are impressively served by Smith’s ear for pithy encapsulation: “why am I the locus of your discontent/ and not your president.” Smith’s speakers frequently turn to dark humor: “you can shape/ my toil into a robot with nearly real skin,/ but you can’t touch the feeble efforts I make to retaliate;” “should I mother or write/ serve art or the state.” Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Smith’s writing is its refusal to downplay the speaker’s complicity in a Darwinian system of profit, in which shopping at Amazon equates to “baring my economic thorax.” The lyrical prose piece “American Mythos” turns ambivalence over the purchase of a video game into a meditation on impersonal cosmic forces, ending in a dystopian, speculative chronicle in which an airplane is described by future humanity as “a ship powered by bones that flew in the air without moving a single feather.” Smith’s image-driven metaphors circle the “molten core of the real,” articulating shared dilemmas while jolting the reader out of complacence. (Aug.)