Art Smith‘s The Fortunate Era was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2013. From the opening poem, we follow a narrator through the loss of an Edenic life and its manifestations, from personal loss to the extinction of species and—looming in the future—the threat of our own extinction. In the process we range from the microscopic to the cosmic, from the worlds of literature, science, culture, politics, and religion.
In his profound new book, Arthur Smith lets us see “. . . the ruins /of our lives burning in the fires, in the rubble, / In the work of living, in my mind.”The source of the book’s title, The Fortunate Era, is the observation of a Nobel laureate in physics, who said “We live in the fortunate era . . . in which there is matter.”This peculiar revelatory vision of matter, of our material world, the world that burns in the paradise furnace of Smith’s imagination is as finite and startling as a spider in a blossom, stars, a tiger, a lover—or long-lasting grief.These poems are made of both familiar and elegantly spinning insight, real as rock.The flames bank and re-flare, but what Smith is shoring up for us in the ruins is the pure lyrical restraint of master: these poems re-make the way we see the world, right down to each fiery particle.—Carol Muske-Dukes
“Smith’s life’s work has been a quest for earthly insights into transcendent visions, and he writes as though he were a gentler version of Dante’s Minos, making stoical judgments over moments of his own life, consigning them to placements in hell, purgatory, and up to the brink of heaven. He’s looked inside and felt the daily terror, yet within that terror, a new life.” — Garrett Hongo