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2008 National Book Award Finalist,

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Patricia Smith
Blood Dazzler
Coffee House Press


Out of the maelstrom of the Slam, Patricia Smith conjures a harsh and elegant poetry in Blood Dazzler. Readers suspicious of her performance pedigree will note the formal ingenuity, whether sonnet, tanka, or collage. At the same time, the audience who prefers the live mic will be seized by the power of her voices, including that of Katrina “in full tantrum.” From a confluence of poetic sensibilities, in a hot political wind, Smith rises above mere topicality to address timeless concerns.


Patricia Smith is the author of Teahouse of the Almighty, a National Poetry Series winner, the Best Poetry Book of 2006 on, and a 2007 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and Paterson Poetry Prize winner; Close to Death, Big Towns, Big Talk and Life According to Motown. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Paris Review, poemmemoirstory, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, the Chautauqua Literary Journal, TriQuarterly, and other journals, and in many groundbreaking anthologies— most recently Gathering Ground, The Spoken Word Revolution, The Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry and Short Fuse: The Global Anthology of New Fusion Poetry. Her poem "The Way Pilots Walk" received a Pushcart Prize, and is featured in Pushcart Prize XXXII: Best of the Small Presses. An accomplished and sought-after instructor of poetry, performance and creative writing, Smith is a Cave Canem faculty member, as well as a former Bruce McEver Chair in Writing at Georgia Tech University.


Patricia Smith’s fifth book of poetry, Blood Dazzler chronicles the human, physical and emotional toll exacted by Hurricane Katrina, a catastrophic natural event with lasting spiritual and political impact. This much-anticipated volume is also the focal point of a new dance/theater collaboration between Patricia and Urban Bush Women choreographer Paloma McGregor.


Patricia Smith's website



Hurricanes, 2005

Arlene learned to dance backwards in heels that were too high.
Bret prayed for a shaggy mustache made of mud and hair.
Cindy just couldn’t keep her windy legs together.
Dennis never learned to swim.
Emily whispered her gusts into a thousand skins.
Franklin, farsighted and anxious, bumbled villages.
Gert spat her matronly name against a city’s flat face.
Harvey hurled a wailing child high.
Irene, the baby girl, threw pounding tantrums.
José liked the whip sound of slapping.
Lee just craved the whip.
Maria’s thunder skirts flew high when she danced.
Nate was mannered and practical. He stormed precisely.
Ophelia nibbled weirdly on the tips of depressions.
Philippe slept too late, flailing on a wronged ocean.
Rita was a vicious flirt. She woke Philippe with rumors.
Stan was born business, a gobbler of steel.
Tammy crooned country, getting the words all wrong.
Vince died before anyone could remember his name.
Wilma opened her maw wide, flashing rot.

None of them talked about Katrina.
She was their odd sister,
the blood dazzler.

From Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith. Copyright © 2008 by Patricia Smith. Published by Coffee House Press ( Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.


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