Dave Smith’s sixteenth poetry collection chronicles the arc of almost sixty years living in the American South. From dusty sawmills to the ubiquitous Waffle House, Hawks on Wires stages both mortal and comic dramas that speak to the poet’s autumnal acceptance of himself and the South.
Poems of growing up engaged with the people of the coast and woodlands—boatmen, hunters, crabbers, sawyers, and tough-mouthed waitresses—celebrate the once strong but now tenuous threads of community.
Traveling through the latter twentieth century, Smith presents matters of family, sex, and race during a turbulent and historic era in southern history. Assassinations, withdrawal of religious prohibitions, violent cultural convulsions, and even the diminished meaning of the word “southern” shake the poet’s personal identity.
Smith uses the language of an ordinary man seeking meaning as the memory of events, carried over a lifetime, now begs for explanation. Despite the inevitable displacements and disappointments of identity, which remain mysterious, Smith finds optimism in life.
Dave Smith is the author of many books of poetry, fiction, criticism, and memoir, including The Wick of Memory: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2000, and Little Boats, Unsalvaged: Poems, 1992-2004. Former editor of The Southern Review, he is now Elliott Coleman Professor of Poetry and chairman of the Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University. He has received numerous honors, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation, and membership in the Fellowship of Southern Writers.