cover image Stop Lying

Stop Lying

Aaron Smith. Univ. of Pittsburgh, $18 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-0-8229-6704-0

“I’m tired of trying to be/ a good person,” Smith writes in his visceral, tender, and compassionate latest (after The Book of Daniel). Smith’s elegiac writing reveals a fervent desire to test the limits of one’s empathy and understanding, resisting the urge “to rewrite// the world to suit them.” Instead, these poems reveal the work attempting to see and describe the world as it really is, balancing a tightrope of complexity and compassion. “Maybe I’m defending him,” Smith declares in a poem about his father, “If he’s a bad man, it’s because/ he’s a broken man.” Smith’s titles are frequently as stirring as the poems themselves, such as “Maybe My Mother Had So Much Stuff Because She Was Lonely,” “A Friend Says You Can Promise the Dying Anything,” and “After My Mother Apologized for My Childhood, We Went to Brunch.” This is a master class on how to write about loss and love. (Jan.)