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“There are two schools: one that sings the sheen and hues, the necessary pigments and frankincense while the world dries and the other voice like water that seeks to saturate, erode, and boil . . . It ruins everything you have ever saved.”
            Spill is a book in contradictions, embodying helplessness in the face of our dual citizenship in the realms of trauma and gratitude, artistic aspiration and political reality. The centerpiece of this collection is a lyrical essay that recalls the poet’s time working at the Federal Penitentiary at Lewisburg in the 1960s. Mentored by the insouciant inmate S, the speaker receives a schooling in race, class, and culture, as well as the beginning of an apprenticeship in poetry. As he and S consult the I Ching, the Book of Changes, the speaker becomes cognizant of other frequencies, other identities; poetry, divination, and a synchronous, alternative reading of life come into focus. On either side of this prose poem are related poems of excess and witness, of the ransacked places and of new territories that emerge from the monstrous. Throughout, these poems inhabit rather than resolve their contradictions, their utterances held in tension “between the hemispheres of songbirds and the hemispheres of men.”

80 pages | 4 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2018

Phoenix Poets



“Smith dismantles the boundaries among the lyric, travelogue, and philosophy in this hybridized collection. . . . As Smith shifts gracefully among locales, genres, and temporal moments, the text performs and enacts its apt title, questioning the extent to which any individual voice exists apart from a shared cultural imagination. . . . Smith’s volume considers history, violence, and subjectivity with compassion and remarkable insight.”

Publishers Weekly

“Bruce Smith makes poetry from not-poetry, art from not-art, in these savage songs where history clashes with ecstasy. From the central prose sequence of prison life in the Vietnam years to chants and curses of our own day, this Song of My Smashed Self mourns, accuses, confesses, and multiplies. Bruce Smith is writing fully political lyric, ‘patterns of the blast.’”

Rosanna Warren, author of Ghost in a Red Hat

“This is a book through which we can ride smoothly into a time, a place, its passions and terrors; however, when you glance in the rearview mirror you see that the gravel has been churned up by your traveling at such speed, that you’ve left Earth with this poet, that you are not where you expected to be, but you are where you never doubted you should be going.”

Laura Kasischke, author of Space, In Chains

Table of Contents

Beautiful Throat
Summer Rain
Goodbye Tuscaloosa
Ballad and Proposition
What Are They Doing in the Next Room?
The Whiteness
Marvin Gaye Sings the National Anthem, 1983
“Are You Ready to Smash White Things?”

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