This post is a little belated. I got my copy of Patricia Smith’s critically acclaimed collection of poems Blood Dazzler last week. Even still, it’s never too late to talk about a great book. In case you didn’t already know, this book is Smith’s tribute to the people of New Orleans and their struggle before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. In my opinion, Smith is successful because she’s aware of all the possible perils a writer faces when taking on a time specific disaster. After being inundated with media coverage about Katrina, there’s always a risk that people will roll their eyes whenever someone brings it up in literature. Other risks include being too serious, too distant, too inspirational, etc. Smith deftly writes in a way that reintroduces us to the City, the Storm, and the Story as she sees it. Katrina herself is given several first person monologues and she’s not a very nice person, not at all. She’s young, misunderstood, and angry. There are poems about various victims, including a dog left behind by his own. (Try not to get a little weepy when you read about Luther B. I dare you!) I don’t want to spoil the book for you because I want you to go out and get a copy. This is poetry that matters. This is Patricia Smith giving us what we’ve been waiting for.
Also, Blood Dazzler was recently named as a finalist for the National Book Award. On November 18th, I will be in the audience as Patricia Smith and the other finalists read their work. I can’t wait.