Friday, February 05, 2010

Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith

Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith is the fourth collection of her works—enough to merit her one day having a complete works of . . . and hopefully with a cd of her reading her own works.  After all, she is a spoken word artist, a national slam champion, and the pleasure of hearing her read her own words is the only way to truly present a complete collection.

Do you already guess that I love Smith’s poetry?  The truth is, I went into this collection with a boat load of anticipation and very high expectations, a combination that can, and often does, damn a book before it is read; all the more so because I had heard her read one of the pieces from this collection at a poetry reading. 

Nevertheless, this is an ambitious collection that addresses the events leading up to, through, and after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.  Not completely chronological, thematically the pieces are so tightly woven that the horror of the experience is realized on the page in ways that are both surprising and inevitable.  Where Smith excels is in her use of personification—whether anthropomorphic or immersion of herself in the personae of another.  Many of the poems are preceded with an epigram that contextualizes the piece in a specific moment as in the example below:

11 A.M., Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Satellite imagery . . . Doppler radar data from the Bahamas and Miami . . . indicate [tropical depression twelve] has become much better organized . . . has strengthened into tropical storm Katrina.”—National Hurricane Center

The difference in a given name.  What the calling,
the hard K, does to the steel of me, 
how suddenly and surely it grants me
pulse, petulance.  Now I can do

my own choking.  I can thread my fingers
with grimace and spit

zephyr, a gentle marking
of the very first time I felt

that crisp, bladed noun
in my own mouth.

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