If you've ever asked me what I write about, I will tell you that I am working on a book of poems called Notes from the Journal of an Intergalactic Love Cowboy, and that the basic premise of this book is that our hero, Harold, is an astronaut who gets sucked into a blackhole, and in the fraction of a second before his body collapses under those sorts of conditions (I like to think he'd shatter, but have no basis for this belief), time has slowed enough that he can watch the entire history of the earth pass before him.
This is pretty much a lie. I had the idea for the book about four years ago, and I've only written about ten poems from Harold's perspective, and in fact, most of those poems are terrible. I think the idea speaks to my current themes well, though, so it makes for a tidy explanation. Since reading Tracy K. Smith's Life on Mars, however, I think just telling people that what I'm writing is a less amazing version of that book would be more honest. She's really said it all - every word.
I finished the book over the weekend, and every single poem felt like a revelation to me. I was particularly taken by "It's Not," "Aubade," "When Your Small Form Tumbled Into Me," and "Us & Co.," but there wasn't a false note in this book. Smith, whose father worked on the Hubble Telescope and passed away four years ago, works so brilliantly in the line between the public and the private, between pop-culture and personal. I don't know that there's much I can add to Dan Chiasson's review of the book, but I will say that the book moved me more than any book in recent memory. Even if you rarely read poetry, you should read this.