Hilton Als at The New Yorker:
In “Duende” and in her third book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Life on Mars” (2011), Smith explores another aspect of her “I”—Tracy before she was Tracy. In “Interrogative,” she writes of her pregnant mother: “What did your hand mean to smooth / Across the casket of your belly? / What echoed there, if not me—tiny body / Afloat, akimbo, awake, or at rest?” To imagine who you were before you were is a way of understanding who you are now and what you may become. Smith is interested in the roots of love, the various selves that go into the making of a body. But “Duende” isn’t all wish and wonder. It’s also about threats to the female body, pleasures that can be withdrawn, judged. In her extraordinary poem “The Searchers,” she writes about a character in John Ford’s 1956 film of the same title—a white girl who was kidnapped and brought up by Native Americans.