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.
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.