Part ancient Greek chorus, part Southern Baptist revival, Songs for Two Voices is an explosive showcase for Bruce Smith's jazz-like variations on sonnets and couplets, offering twenty-five duets: poems of call and response, song and countersong. In poems that groove and break, shimmy and dance, Smith filters his Milcs Davis-like riffs through a post-World War II American sensibility to deliver verse without platitudes. As Smith's speakers wander through the detritus of American materialism - encountering jazz, football, drag, class war, Reaganomics, and Vietnam - the poems dramatize the contradictions and peculiarities of growing up male in Cold War America, both sensing promise and suffering disillusion. Each poem here speaks in two voices: one that attacks and one that cowers, one voice that leads while the other follows. But Smith's subjects are unencumbered by form, and their voices blossom in duet: the idealized lover is also a betrayer, the man is also a girl. These binaries of statement and contradiction give birth to a third voice in the unrcalized possibilities of the two.
A mesmerizing follow-up to 2000's The Other Lover, Smith's Songs for Two Voices is carnal yet fiercely intellectual, laid out with the self-confidence of a poet who can invoke Mozart and Coltrane, Anna Akhmatova and John Wayne, Teddy Roosevelt and Augustine in the same incendiary breath.
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Number of pages: 72
Weight: 290 g
Dimensions: 226 x 166 x 13 mm
"The lines--sometimes single but usually paired--fold into each other like the parts of an origami bird and, like the bird, resist being opened. After all, when you unfold the bird you're left with a plain piece of paper. Meaning, elegance, pleasure--everything is in the folding."
--F. D. Reeve "The Antioch Review "