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The award-winning poet and journalist Clint Smith tackles the joys and tribulations of parenthood in his latest poetry collection, Above Ground. Written over the course of six years in which he welcomed two children, Smith’s collection attempts to view the world with the same wide-eyed wonder that his son and daughter do. It’s hard not to be tickled by his descriptions of his kids picking a flower for the first time, watching a ladybug fly across the room, or throwing a spontaneous dance party in the kitchen. But Smith knows that parenting is not always answering questions about jellyfish and giraffes, two animals that inspire some of the sweetest and most enlightening poems in the book. With wisdom and empathy, he tries to unpack the ways in which the world can be cruel and unforgiving, especially toward Black people. In “National Anthem,” a woman’s furious reaction to Colin Kaepernick kneeling becomes a sobering reminder of the prejudice his little boy will face as he gets older. In the anthology’s titular poem, Smith spots the golden exoskeleton of a cicada, which emerges from the ground after 17 years, and he wonders if climate change will keep them from returning in another 17. Yet, like so many poems in this moving follow up to his 2021 nonfiction book How the Word Is Passed, Smith finds faith in the unknowable and hope in a world that is ever changing. —Shannon Carlin

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