In A Mandala of Hands,John Warner Smith crafts poems of patient and painstaking wisdom, poems that lead the reader deliberately into an array of vantages, laboring hard to leaven inquiry with insight.  At the heart of this book’s mosaic approach beats a steady quest for recovery and repair.  Awake to the knowledge that human hands carry “a story in every line.”  The well of Smith’s poetic voice manages to feel both deep with waiting and fresh with resolve: “Like memory and dawn, death will heal, / wheat will bloom, and birdsongs will light / the rooms of their house.  Time will love.”  And so, with each reading, I feel more and more compelled to echo Smith’s own petition from the opening poem of this moving collection: “Let [this] book talk.”         

     ~ Geffrey Davis

John Warner Smith’s terrific debut collection pays homage to histories near and far, familial and mythic.  Neighbors become ancestors, ancestors become neighbors offering the “songs we never heard,” the songs we have yet to sing in these rich poems. Smith writes with an anthropologist’s precision and a griot’s reverence as he revives, recovers and reimagines the voices that unite us.  A Mandala of Hands is a mature and magical new book.

     ~ Terrance Hayes

These poems are pulsing with the slights, crimes, and public pangs of history.  But they also celebrate the triumph of survival and the gift of heritage.  John Warner Smith is a poet with “belief ablaze,” and his
A Mandala of Hands will “stand / the shifts of seas, mountains, /
and human conscience.”

     ~ Tracy K. Smith