Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith is a poetry collection which contemplates gun violence, existence, torture, pain, isolation, and truth all loosely framed under the context of outer space. Its universe and planet metaphors work to invigorate and deepen the understanding of the moments Smith curates. And in the poems, ‘The Speed of Belief’ and ‘Life on Mars’, the themes are imbued into lines such as, “Tina says what if dark matter is the space between people”. Space as a metaphor contextualizes the distance of the people within the poem who have been locked in basements, sexually assaulted, and were prisoners in Iraq. For these people, there is no grounding because all they have experienced is torture of another world. Smith pulls together moments, ideas, and feelings vividly and extraordinarily well in this collection.
Final Rating: 4/5
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Maxwell Suzuki is a writer, poet, and photographer based in Los Angeles.