“These short, fiery verses describe with sorrow and passion the Crescent City just before, during and immediately after Katrina.” —Publishers Weekly 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 wailsLook like this country done left us for dead. “Smith’s poems are captivating and their heartrending subject matter adds to their allure. She is observant and precise; she captures a moment in our history that many will never forget, but also a moment that just as many will never begin to know. Blood Dazzler makes available to its readers a chilling time in America and crystallizes the nation’s fears and weaknesses.” —Coldfront
Two new books of poetry show us Katrina-devastated New Orleans from the inside.Blood DazzlerPatricia Smith. Coffee House (Consortium, dist.), $16 paper (90p) 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.