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Blood Dazzler
by Patricia Smith

Overview - 2008 National Book Award Nominee for Poetry

Katrina

Weather is nothing until it reaches skin,
freezes dust, spits its little swords.
Kept to oceans, feeding only on salted water,
I was a rudderless woman in full tantrum,
throwing my body against worlds I wanted.
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More About Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith
 
 
 
Overview
2008 National Book Award Nominee for Poetry

Katrina

Weather is nothing until it reaches skin,
freezes dust, spits its little swords.
Kept to oceans, feeding only on salted water,
I was a rudderless woman in full tantrum,
throwing my body against worlds I wanted.
I never saw harm in lending that ache.
All I ever wanted to be
was a wet, gorgeous mistake,
a reason to crave shelter.

--poem from Patricia Smith's Blood Dazzler

In minute-by-minute detail, Patricia Smith tracks Hurricane Katrina as it transforms into a full-blown mistress of destruction. From August 23, 2005, the day Tropical Depression Twelve developed, through August 28 when it became a Category Five storm with its "scarlet glare fixed on the trembling crescent," to the heartbreaking aftermath, these poems evoke the horror that unfolded in New Orleans as America watched it on television.

Assuming the voices of flailing politicians, the dying, their survivors, and the voice of the hurricane itself, Smith follows the woefully inadequate relief effort and stands witness to families held captive on rooftops and in the Superdome. She gives voice to the thirty-four nursing home residents who drowned in St. Bernard Parish and recalls the day after their deaths when George W. Bush accompanied country singer Mark Willis on guitar:

"The cowboy grins through the terrible din, "
***
"And in the Ninth, a choking woman wails"
Look like this country done left us for dead.

An unforgettable reminder that poetry can still be "news that stays news," "Blood Dazzler" is a necessary step toward national healing.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781566892186
  • ISBN-10: 156689218X
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press
  • Publish Date: September 2008
  • Page Count: 77


Related Categories

Books > Poetry > American - General

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 34.
  • Review Date: 2008-06-16
  • Reviewer: Staff

Simultaneously accessible and daring, these short, fiery verses describe with sorrow and passion the Crescent City just before, during and immediately after Katrina. They describe it from startling points of view—one series of poems takes the vantage point of “Luther B,” a hardy abandoned dog. Another set speaks for the hurricane itself: “every woman begins as weather,” Katrina warns, “sips slow thunder, knows her hips.” Other speakers include the spirit of Voodoo, a nursing home patient, a rapist, George W. Bush and a drag queen whose good humor helps her survive: “This damned trod spells ruin for her party pumps.” Known now as a poet of both the page and stage, Smith (Teahouse of the Almighty) was present at the creation of the poetry slam, in 1980s Chicago. Her command of the spoken voice gives her work both speed and pathos. She benefits, too, from her range of forms: rhymed sonnet, sestina, alphabet poem, long- and short-lined, and fragmentary free verse. This book will stand out among literary records of Katrina's devastation. (Sept.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Small wonders

Many of the year's best collections have been published by small publishing houses, which, along with university presses, comprise the backbone of poetry publication. For example, Graywolf's Elizabeth Alexander wrote and read the inaugural poem, and Coffee House Press author Patricia Smith's Blood Dazzler, a Category-5 sequence about Katrina, was a National Book Award nominee. Overlook has just issued a collection not-really-for children (unless their parents are willing to pay for years of therapy), Shut Up, You're Fine, by Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-nominated author Andrew Hudgins with illustrations by the acclaimed Barry Moser; and BOA Editions recently issued one of the year's most interesting books, The Heaven-Sent Leaf, a collection of parable-like poems about that seemingly most unpoetic of subjects, money, by former hedge-funder Katy Lederer. Finally, Copper Canyon's 2008 list included C.D. Wright's Rising Falling Hovering, whose singular mix of Ozarkiana, the avant-garde and social consciousness has made her one of today's most interesting and admired poets.

 
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