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In the hands of Bruce Smith, devotions are momentary stops to listen to the motor of history. They are meditations and provocations. They are messages received from the chatter of the street and from transmissions as distant as Memphis and al-Mansur. Bulletins and interruptions come from brutal elsewheres and from the interior where music puts electrodes on the body to take an EKG. These poems visit high schools, laundromats, motels, films, and dreams in order to measure the American hunger and thirst. They are interested in the things we profess to hold most dear as well as what’s unspoken and unbidden. While we’re driving, while riding a bus, while receiving a call, while passing through an X-ray machine, the personal is intersected—sometimes violently, sometimes tenderly—with the hum and buzz of the culture. The culture, whether New York or Tuscaloosa, Seattle or Philadelphia, past or present, carries the burden of race and “someone’s idea of beauty.” The poems fluctuate between the two poles of “lullaby and homicide” before taking a vow to remain on earth, to look right and left, to wait and to witness.

104 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2011

Phoenix Poets



"Bruce Smith’s new poems move fast and travel far. . . . Most books of new poems are either too long or leave readers wanting more. Devotions does neither; it is ample as well as ambitious, agile and unpredictable as well as viscerally affecting. For all that its born-to-run characters yearn for escape, it’s a book to stay inside; it’s exhausting to read, and yet it’s a book to get lost in, one you won’t exhaust any time soon."

Stephen Burt | New York Times Book Review

"Smith’s devotions are authoritative and capacious. Neither querulous nor slavish, they give pleasure, which is what we ask of them."

Library Journal

"In poems alternately sharp, slippery, and tender, Smith finds a way to take in almost everything—’Shooter Protocol,’ Charlie Parker, high school shop class—moving seamlessly between critique and embrace. Smith’s been closely watched for several books now, and this may be his best collection yet."

Publishers Weekly

"Devotions reads like a series of protean Ars Poeticas. The poems glow with ghost rhymes, hypnotic catalogues, and lyric enchantments that constitute ’a blues about the rules for distance and difficult love.’ Bruce Smith is a poet I always read with awe and hunger. This amazing new book overwhelms me in the best possible ways."

Terrance Hayes, author of Lighthead , winner of the National Book Award

Table of Contents


Devotion: Coin-Op

Devotion: Hörlust

Devotion: New York, July

Devotion: Thirst Reduction

Devotion: Redshift

Devotion: Smoke

Devotion: High School

Devotion: Hunan House

Devotion: Soup

Devotion: Fort Drum

Devotion: Medea

Devotion: Red Roof Inn

Devotion: Guitar

Devotion: The Burnt-Over District

Devotion: Dub

Devotion: Obbligato

Devotion: Rent

Devotion: Dizzy Gillespie

Devotion: J’s Dream

Devotion: Al Green

Devotion: Paris

Devotion: Contraband

Devotion: New York, 1970

Devotion: Josephine P

Devotion: Changeling

Devotion: The Garment District

Devotion: Wuthering Heights

Devotion: Sleep

Devotion: The Bus to Utica

Devotion: Providence

Devotion: Syracuse

Devotion: Syracuse en Rose

Devotion: Dress

Devotion: Closer

Devotion: Flight

Devotion: Ode

Devotion: October

Devotion: Amerika

Devotion: Rimbaud

Devotion: The Game

Devotion: Baseball

Devotion: X

Devotion: Infant Joy

Devotion: Infant Sorrow

Devotion: The Republic

Devotion: Active Shooter Protocol

Devotion: Car Wreck

Devotion: Nature

Devotion: The Insects

Devotion: Dusk

Devotion: Race Traitor

Devotion: Futurismo

Devotion: Sun

Devotion: Midrash

Devotion: Crows

Devotion: Roman

Devotion: The Unbidden

Devotion: Fly


Los Angeles Times: Los Angeles Times Book Prizes

National Book Foundation: National Book Awards

National Book Critics Circle Board: National Book Critics Circle Award

Poetry Society of America: William Carlos Williams Award

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