... reading Smith’s body of work in this way was such an enriching experience ... revisiting her work in this way made me see individual poems and her body of work through a more nuanced lens—her poems become more overtly political for one thing ... the book gave me a greater appreciation for a more constellated reading experience, that is accretive over time, due to the consistency of Smith’s writing. I was struck by how reliably skilled Smith’s writing is, from the very first book ... I’m not sure if I’m meant to focus on any particular singular poem, but instead, I feel a collective haze of excellence when I’m done reading. There are different themes that change...but the consistency of the writing and the consistency of the quality of the writing is something that I noticed.
Tracy K. Smith has given her readers a generous selection of poems from her previous four books as well as eighteen new poems. Reading it, I was impressed by how immediately Smith seemed to locate the two modes of writing that would sustain her to this point. The first is a personally elegiac mode, the second a broader-reaching sympathy for marginalized voices that are usually unheard or omitted from the record ... Smith can get herself into trouble, on the other hand, when her attention strays too far from her own experience. This same fault could be attributed to any number of poets, especially at the beginning of their careers, when any life other than one’s own is an occasion for larger questions at best, an abstraction at worst. For Smith, though, the problem isn’t a matter of artistic self-absorption; there’s real compassion and imagination for the people she puts into her poems, whether or not she knows them personally. What plagues her earlier efforts instead is a lack of purpose in the language ... Smith has compiled far more than a retrospective of her career. The whole collection stands as testimony to a moral authority few poets—few people—can honestly claim. What could be more vital than a sensibility that can contain so much human life and all its turbulent, fleshy, sensual singing, especially in an age where we are increasingly atomized as a collection of consumer demographics? Tracy K. Smith has placed herself among the small handful of poets writing today with the social consciousness and talent necessary to meet our historical moment.
....this book is an unflagging, accretive wave after wave of simultaneously grounded and transcendent content ... After nearly twenty years of award-winning work, there are different thematic emphases and shifting political contexts across the books sampled for this compilation. Yet, underscoring both the consistency of her talent and the fine hand in curating this collection, it feels as if it is all one ever-deepening conversation she is having with herself, with the ancestors, with this world, and with us ... Throughout Such Color, there are poems of witness about horrific acts of desecration and the limitless unending cruelties of which humans are capable ... Reading through this collection of collections, one is keenly aware that though external details shift, the underlying aspects of humanity, such as it is, and the global political machinery, such as it is, are our enduring and sometimes hideous features ... Smith’s tone is often ecstatic, generation-spanning, and despite all past—and present—violence, calls to the future with an emphatic statement of resistance and eternal existence.
Tracy K. Smith’s new and selected poems shows us how long it took for her to become herself or, that is, to allow herself to be the lyric persona of her poems. That individual steps forth in her award-winning third book, Life on Mars, and continues, until reaching a muted or less vivid depiction in her new poems. There is a steady exactitude in her best poems, so that when she feels the necessity to project her rhetoric at a high pitch, things can get blurry and hard to believe. The younger poet tries on personae that are not always convincing ... One wonders if there’s a certain way she thinks she ought to be. More daring? Volatile? Her next book, Duende, brings to mind Lorca’s dark creative spirit ... But then comes a breakthrough in terms of contemporary identity ... Forgiveness may be the best revenge, if the right poet can picture it. Smith’s accomplishment also helps us to appreciate the standout among her new poems, 'Soulwork'[.]
This collection bundles several dozen poems from Smith’s outstanding oeuvre with 18 new poems collected under the header 'Riot,' and bookended by two eponymous poems. The collected poems reflect the bright arc of Smith’s career ... The first of Smith’s stunning new poems concludes with scandalously perplexing stanzas cascading down the page ... Smith’s admirers will enjoy revisiting favorite poems and reading new works, while this volume will stand as a welcoming and dazzling introduction to Smith’s poetry for first-timers.
[An] incisive collection of poems from her four books as well as 18 new poems that reproach ignorance and denial while championing a collective voice for women and the Black community ... Smith provides sensuous, lyrical narratives with oracular depth. Both timeless and urgent, this serves as a humbling and invigorating reawakening from sorrow and apathy.