Such Color: New and Selected Poems, her first career-spanning volume, traces an increasingly audacious commitment to exploring the unknowable, the immense mysteries of existence. It collects poems from Smith's award-winning books and culminates in thirty pages of new poems.
... 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.
....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'[.]