Songs for Two Voices
Songs for Two Voices
As Smith’s speakers wander through the detritus of American materialism-encountering jazz, football, drag, class war, Reaganomics, and Vietnam-the poems dramatize the contradictions and peculiarities of growing up male in Cold War America, both sensing promise and suffering disillusion.
Each poem here speaks in two voices: one that attacks and one that cowers, one voice that leads while the other follows. But Smith’s subjects are unencumbered by form, and their voices blossom in duet: the idealized lover is also a betrayer, the man is also a girl. These binaries of statement and contradiction give birth to a third voice in the unrealized possibilities of the two.
A mesmerizing follow-up to 2000’s The Other Lover, Smith’s Songs for Two Voices is carnal yet fiercely intellectual, laid out with the self-confidence of a poet who can invoke Mozart and Coltrane, Anna Akhmatova and John Wayne, Teddy Roosevelt and Augustine in the same incendiary breath.
"Bruce Smith is a tender master of music, and beautiful lines, and complex thoughts, and fascinating wild personal and cultural references."
Gerald Stern | Gerald Stern
"’Isn’t that I: the vexed, the contested life,’ opens one of Bruce Smith’s startling songs. These split lyrics propose a new, capacious kind of poetic form, in which voice vexes and contests voice--not in parallel lines, not in argument, but in nearly-touching separate arcs that create a new-century version of counterpoint, one half of a song opening and digging beneath and beside the other. Smith’s paired monologues are ’willfull and fatal, enraged and tender.’"
Mark Doty | Mark Doty
“The lines—sometimes single but usually paired—fold into each other like the parts of an origami bird and, like the bird, resist being opened. After all, when you unfold the bird you’re left with a plain piece of paper. Meaning, elegance, pleasure—everything is in the folding.”
F. D. Reeve | The Antioch Review
Table of Contents
Song of the Least Thing
Song of the Pronouns
Song of the Mother in the Snow
Song of Sun Ra
Song of Loss in the Form of a Cock Ring
Song with Alabama in Drag
Song with a Child’s Pacifier in It
Song with Trucks in the Distance
Song of the Afterlife
Song of the Bad Infinite
Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes
Song of the Suffering of the Pencil
Song for My Daughter
Song after the Wedding after the War
Song of the Ransom of the Dark
Song of the Little Zion Baptist Church
Song with Cement
Song with Spanish Shoes
Strong Female Lead
How I Came to Believe in the Soul
Song of the Soul as Miles Davis