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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.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 80 pages
  • 152 x 203 x 7.62mm | 158.76g
  • Pittsburgh PA, United States
  • English
  • 0822964341
  • 9780822964346
  • 1,529,234

Review quote

"Aaron Smith's poems have always exuded a blue that's simultaneously melancholy and bawdy. Primer sharpens his seemingly paradoxical blend of vigor and vulnerability. These marvelous poems are confrontational not simply for readers, but for the poet/self kissing the window between light and darkness, splendor and despair. Smith writes with more provocativeness and compassion than any poet of his generation."-Terrance Hayes; "Shame is the crux, in Smith's austere poems; an aching, inescapable force that closes the gay boy into his own body, making sex abject, until ""there's not enough city//to fill you up."" The world may have changed, but we can't help but carry into the new life the ineradicable weight of the past."-Mark Doty; "In Primer, Aaron Smith has not only upped the ante, he's been penetrated and eviscerated by it. These poems arouse me with their brazen, indecorous explicitness. The collection throbs with sex and the death wish, but also with wit and an exhilarative rage. This book makes me want to live bareback, to write ever-more-recklessly; it makes me not want my ""stupid, tiny life to end."""-Diane Seuss
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About Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith is the author of Appetite, and Blue on Blue Ground, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, as well as the chapbooks Men in Groups and What's Required. His work has appeared in a number of literary magazines, including Ploughshares and Prairie Schooner, and The Best American Poetry 2013. He is assistant professor of creative writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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Rating details

50 ratings
4.28 out of 5 stars
5 52% (26)
4 34% (17)
3 8% (4)
2 2% (1)
1 4% (2)
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