This third collection from Smith (Appetite) is the kind of book one is tempted to call 'unflinching,' except that, in fact, the poems seem to flinch all over—to recoil, in a manner that is thrillingly moving, from their self-exposure. In plain-spoken poems that come starkly to terms with the early formation of a gay identity and the legacy of a painful family life, Smith finds pleasure in pain and pain in pleasure: 'My fist smashed the bone/ in his nose. A week before he'd stayed at my house,// tried to kiss me, touch my underwear.../.../ I like the way his lip opened under my fist./ I liked the way it felt to be a man.' Elsewhere, plenty of other demons are confronted, including suicidal tendencies ('Aaron Smith killed himself/ because he worried about parking./ I wish that was as funny as it sounds') and illness: "When you were sick/ I made a list of people I wished would die/ instead./.../ ...I didn't feel/ guilty or afraid. I knew words/ wouldn't change a thing." But the book circles back again and again to a father figure as reviled as he is beloved, a source of strength and pain. Smith struggles to clearly see himself and his relation to others in these poems; readers may find their paths illuminated by his flickering light.
Publishers Weekly

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In his third poetry collection, Primer, Aaron Smith grapples with the ugly realities of the private self, in which desire feels more like a trap than fulfillment. What is the face we prepare in our public lives to distract others from our private grief? Smith’s poetry explores that inexplicable tension between what we say and how we actually feel, exposing the complications of intimacy and the limitations of language to bridge those distances between friends, family members, and lovers. What we deny, in the end, may be just what we actually survive. Mortality in Smith’s work remains the uncomfortable foundation at the center of our relationship with others, to faith, to art, to love as we grow older, and ultimately, to our own sense of who we are in our bodies in the world. The struggle of this book, finally, is in naming whether just what we say we want is enough to satisfy our primal needs, or are the choices we make to stay alive the same choices we make to help us, in so many small ways, to die.

104 Pages, 6 x 8 in.

October, 2016

isbn : 9780822964346

about the author

Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith is the author of three books of poetry: Primer, Appetite, and Blue on Blue Ground, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize. His work has appeared in numerous publications including Ploughshares and Best American Poetry. A three-time finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, he is the recipient of fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Mass Cultural Council. He is associate professor of creative writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Aaron Smith