Poetry pick: Life on Mars

Where can you find science fiction, Charlton Heston, David Bowie, and elegies for a father?

As well as at least one villanelle and a ghazal?

Tracy K. Smith’s Life on Mars from Graywolf Press. Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, this volume risks and shimmers. It slows down to the most tender moments. It veers into deep space and the spaces we keep between each other.

Often, I felt out of breath. Especially after reading “The Speed of Belief,” turning the page, and realizing that it was just the first section. So much more to come. I was standing under the trees waiting for my order from the food truck and I had to stop, put the book away until I had the kind of sustained energy and attention that poem demanded and deserved. It was worth the wait.

I delighted in finding a poem called “It & Co.” in the first section and a poem called “Us & Co.” at the end.

I enjoy long poems, especially long poems in sections, and I loved the way these diverged and stayed compressed, linked, at the same time: “Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes,” “Life on Mars,” “No-Fly Zone,” the aforementioned “The Speed of Belief,” the tragic “They May Love All that He Has Chosen and Hate All that He Has Rejected,” and “My God, It’s Full of Stars.”

I deeply appreciated the craft and the heart of this book.