A masterful debut collection by poet Lytton Smith, winner of the Nightboat Poetry Prize.
…a subtle fusion of wit and whims.
The wildly imaginative, artful poems in Lytton Smith’s debut, The All-Purpose Magical Tent, evoke sights and scenes that exist as a circus does: vividly, but evanescently, always dissolving into memory, hearsay, or myth. References to beginnings and endings abound in these poems, many of which tell of civilizations first glimpsing their origins or declines: “The trick by which an island disappears / is not through a trapdoor in a metaphor // of the cardboard theatre of the world, / is not the shift of tectonic plates: // the island becomes the tale of island; / its inhabitants, figures of inhabitants.”
Smith’s debut shows imaginative ambition and rare internal variety, along with a tropism towards allegory. The title refers to the dazzling sequence—with prose poems, single-line stanzas, couplets and other unrhymed forms—in which an eternal circus represents all of humanity…The New York City–based Smith does well with the language that signals his U.K. upbringing: ‘in the centre/of the sheep-field lemurs somehow’ appear ‘at the lilt of the road This Roman road.’ Yet such scenes seem anything but antiquarian—they are fantastic and earthy, strange and inherited, classical and idiosyncratic, at once. Smith’s sequences have themes and forms rather than gimmicks, relying on imagination rather than on any biographical facts. His powers ought to help this book, and its author, last.
Lytton Smith is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He has a B.A. in English from University College London, and …