Before reading the poems in Mike Smith’s remarkable new book, the reader must take a good long look at his opening note on method. Smith means and does just what he says in this note. I’ve seen these acts of Houdini-magic unfolding over the last several years, and I’ve published a number of them in Notre Dame Review. To watch Mike Smith load himself with chains and then escape with a kind of elegant grace is astonishing. The more ambitious poems in “Anagrams of America” – the anagram of Pound’s first Canto, for example, and the whole of “Multiverse: A Bestiary” – are expressions of a weird and even troubling genius. I don’t know of anything else quite like them anywhere.
Reading Mike Smith’s Multiverse is like watching Adam bring forth new creatures from the mud of language by breathing their name. Two books in one, one a bestiary of bodies, the other a personal history, both are a tour de force of the anagram: a thrilling demonstration of how the constraints of language and living produce poetry in life, as poem after poem infects one another.
Mike Smith lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his young daughter and son. A graduate of UNC-Greensboro, Hollins College, and the University of Notre Dame, he has published poetry in magazines such as Free Verse, Hotel Amerika, The Iowa Review, The Notre Dame Review, and Salt. His first full-length collection, How to Make a Mummy, was published in 2008.