By Bruce Smith
"We know so much. We know a glance is the romance of the optic nerve, and a blow at an angle so that we keep on going."
To read Bruce Smith's Devotions is to enter the unsettled crossroads of contemporary American poetry. It's a place where pop meets the classical, where the spiritual text meets LOL, where Paolo and Francesca might road-trip from Corpus Christi to St. Paul with overnight romps in the hay at the Red Roof Inn.
Devotions pulls together some 60 poems—called devotions—on all manner of Americana, from the shopping malls to the jazz clubs, from the gritty to the prissy, from Providence to the unbidden. Only a poetry of reverie could unite the "ravishment, affliction, fraudulence, magnificence, anguish [and] argument" that is the hodge-podge mishmash of this nation. It accomplishes what so little American poetry does today, even attempts today: It envelops you in a singular imagined universe of rhythm and logic.
For the complete text of this article, see the National Book Critic's Circle blog, The Critical Mass.