In The Wick of Memory: New and Selected Poems, 1970–2000, Dave Smith’s poetry reveals as never before its roots in the elegiac tradition that has marked a southern literature that has been so prominent in the twentieth century. Yet equally visible, now, is the ancestral shadow of the Anglo-Saxon poetry from religious questing and the inner voyaging of dreams to the runic parables of nature and its implacable force. Smith’s style is a gritty, ever realistic presentation of human dilemmas in a world both familiar to us all and eerily strange, a world where the actions of individual character and contests over the principles of grace, courage, and passion still matter.
Sailing Atlantic waters, exploring domestic relationships, or plumbing the sources of memory for a personal and a cultural identity, Smith’s central concerns are those obligations we honor and those we fail. The thirty new poems in this collection show Smith turning from the work of an accomplished past to new formal practices that highlight a poetry intensely autumnal in its recognition of life’s limits.
Whether he writes of the weirdness of discount shopping malls, a pig’s tail, or fractured romance, Smith finds that behind everything, as the image of memory’s candle in the darkness reveals, is the singular reality of love. The Wick of Memory is Dave Smith’s record of that vision.
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