Cover image for The body's question
The body's question
Smith, Tracy K.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Saint Paul, Minn. : Graywolf, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiv, 85 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3569.M5386 B63 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PS3569.M5386 B63 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



The debut collection by the Poet Laureate of the United States

* Winner of the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize *

You are pure appetite. I am pure
Appetite. You are a phantom
In that far-off city where daylight
Climbs cathedral walls, stone by stolen stone.
--from "Self-Portrait as the Letter Y"

The Body's Question by Tracy K. Smith received the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book by an African-American poet, selected by Kevin Young. Confronting loss, historical intersections with race and family, and the threshold between childhood and adulthood, Smith gathers courage and direction from the many disparate selves encountered in these poems, until, as she writes, "I was anyone I wanted to be."

Author Notes

Tracy K. Smith received degrees from Harvard and Columbia Universities and a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. She currently lives and teaches in Brooklyn, New York.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

It is no surprise that this first published collection of poetry by the current U.S. Poet Laureate received the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book by an African American poet in 2002, for Smith already possessed a voice of strength, beauty, and originality that would eventually lead to the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for the collection Life on Mars. That Smith's voice is so clearly present in this early work is a wonder. These poems avoid the pitfalls that bedevil many first collections; there is no hesitancy, no insecurity, no clunky language, no awkwardness, and no forced metaphors. Indeed, Smith's poems delight in a vibrancy of expression made all the more engaging because she does not shy away from the passions of the body. Within these passions, however, there is sorrow as well as joy, anger as well as playfulness. "The body is appetite," yes. "But the body is cautious" as well and rightly so. Especially for women of color, who move through a world in which their bodies have been literally commodified in the past and still remain, in many ways, a contested space, a space that Smith's poems reclaim with fierceness and fortitude. VERDICT Read by the poet, this collection speaks clearly and forcefully with an original and compelling voice. Highly recommended. ["This is a rewarding book for any reader": LJ 9/15/03 review of the Graywolf hc.]-Wendy Galgan, St. Joseph's Coll., Standish, ME © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.