The Body's Question

2 CDs. HighBridge Audio. Aug. 2018. 90 min. ISBN 9781681689043. $9.99. digital download. POETRY
It is no surprise that this first published collection of poetry by the current U.S. Poet Laureate received the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book by an African American poet in 2002, for Smith already possessed a voice of strength, beauty, and originality that would eventually lead to the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for the collection Life on Mars. That Smith's voice is so clearly present in this early work is a wonder. These poems avoid the pitfalls that bedevil many first collections; there is no hesitancy, no insecurity, no clunky language, no awkwardness, and no forced metaphors. Indeed, Smith's poems delight in a vibrancy of expression made all the more engaging because she does not shy away from the passions of the body. Within these passions, however, there is sorrow as well as joy, anger as well as playfulness. "The body is appetite," yes. "But the body is cautious" as well and rightly so. Especially for women of color, who move through a world in which their bodies have been literally commodified in the past and still remain, in many ways, a contested space, a space that Smith's poems reclaim with fierceness and fortitude.
VERDICT Read by the poet, this collection speaks clearly and forcefully with an original and compelling voice. Highly recommended. ["This is a rewarding book for any reader": LJ 9/15/03 review of the Graywolf hc.]—Wendy Galgan, St. Joseph's Coll., Standish, ME

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