While You Were Approaching the Spectacle But Before You Were Transformed by It

A riveting second collection from a “poet already in his prime” (Boston Review)



Did you know members can access discounts of up to 20%? Join Today!


Additional information

Weight .3 lbs
Dimensions 5.5 × .3 × 8 in

How do we react to disaster, to political uprising, to spectacle? With relief missions, donations, and what words?While You Were Approaching the Spectacle But Before You Were Transformed by It, the second book by Lytton Smith, explores the relationship between poetry, news, and the lives of others. Poised between Brecht’s critique of empathy and Martha Nussbaum’s politics of compassion, this powerful collection plays with direct address and personal testimony as it investigates the relationship between ethics and the aesthetic. Drawing on sources that range from travel guides, BBC reports, contemporary art exhibitions, and sixteenth-century debates about masque, Smith’s book offers a range of forms that test the edges of the page, the borders of communication.

ISBN: 978-1-937658-11-3
paperback, 88 pages, 5.5 x 8 in
Publication Date: 2013

In his second collection, Smith (The All-Purpose Magical Tent) lingers in a censored place where violence can’t be articulated and where language breaks down as it’s translated from eye to memory to Internet… A country does not vanish if you cannot access it online, though “the Internet can be switched off/ and those outside describe the land/ as gone dark.” At times, Smith writes as though he’s composing a telegram, or a journalist taking flurried notes to remember the event later, where every word is crucial, and insufficient: “It tragic. It urgent.”


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 …

More about Lytton Smith