“I know of no young American poet currently evoking a more physically precise, companionable, emotionally resonant personal history of place than Cody Smith. In Gulf, his Louisiana and his generation have their answer to Frost’s North of Boston and Brooks’ A Street in Bronzeville. Smith’s gorgeous sentences reel out—often for long, winding stretches—with rhapsodic affection, wonder, and grief like rural backroads heading home. Or is it away from home? It’s both, of course, say these poems. These poems are so convincing, so eloquently, unpretentiously, lovingly brilliant in their details, and so true in their singing, they mourn their maker’s world even as they resurrect and hold that world within him. And within us.”
—Jonathan Johnson May Is an Island and The Desk on the Sea
“I read dozens of poetry books every year, and rarely have I experienced the kind of marrow-deep emotional attachment to new poems that I feel for Cody Smith’s Gulf. These poems are filled with what the English poet David Jones calls “the actually known and loved,” and by the end of the collection I came to know and love the ailing grandfather, an outlaw-Papaw singing Merle Haggard songs and teaching a boy to work on a tractor. I know and love the guns and the tools Smith’s poems introduce, the mud of the ponds and the muck in the pirogues, and even the storms that threaten pretty much every day along the Gulf. The elegiac genius of Larry Levis presides over these poems, and other poets like Yusef Komunyakaa, Philip Levine, and Claudia Emerson offer some context, yet the whole is Cody Smith alone: singular experience, singular unforgettable voice.”
—Jesse Graves Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine and Basin Ghosts
“The poems in Gulf are rich with the humid embrace of the South Louisiana swamps, the joy of family and the sorrow of loss. These are poems that celebrate working people, men who cut down trees and sometimes drink too much and women who can make cornbread and rock a child to sleep. Hurricanes roll in from the gulf and heat lightning blazes in the sky. Gulf is filled with the blues, the rumble that comes from human hearts. Cody Smith is a poet of the earth and a brother of John Keats with a blues guitar. A stunning debut collection.
—Barbara Hamby Bird Odyssey and On the Street of Divine Love: New and Selected Poems
(Chapbook, Yellow Flag Press)
Read these poems out in the humidity and sun if you can. With sweat beads on the glass of your beverage and cicada song in the trees. But if you can’t, don’t worry, these poems will transport you there soon enough. Cody Smith is writing the next generation’s literary Louisiana, and I know of no poet better suited to the task. His very identity speaks in and for the exquisite vernacular of the place. Through the saturated physicality of his vision, and through the longing, sorrow, and love in his recollection and his regard, Smith evokes, inhabits and offers to us his home’s natural, cultural and, yes, spiritual character. —Jonathan Johnson