‘Blood Dazzler’ by Patricia Smith

Read 3 poems from Blood Dazzler in the original column, posted in August 2019, here.

Patricia Smith is the author of eight books of poetry, including Incendiary Art, winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the 2018 NAACP Image Award, and finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler, a National Book Award finalist; and Gotta Go, Gotta Flow, a collaboration with award-winning Chicago photographer Michael Abramson. Her other books include the poetry volumes Teahouse of the Almighty, Close to Death, Big Towns Big Talk, and Life According to Motown; the children’s book Janna and the Kings and the history Africans in America, a companion book to the award-winning PBS series. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Baffler, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Tin House, and in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays,and Best American Mystery Stories. She co-edited The Golden Shovel Anthology—New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks and edited the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir. Patricia is a professor at the College of Staten Island and in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College, as well as an instructor at the annual VONA Residency and in the Vermont College of Fine Arts Post-Graduate residency program. [Source: www.wordwoman.ws/about] Visit Patricia Smith’s website here.

Listen to the poet read “34” from Blood Dazzler here.

Read an interview with the author and poet Kaveh Akbar in which they discuss Blood Dazzler here.


Commentary by Amanda Moore

While I am always eager to discover new and exciting poems and poets that expand my idea of what poetry can be and do, revisiting favorite texts multiple times over many years is how I do my best learning. The poet and reader I am are constantly evolving, and when I return to a text I first loved in youth or studied when I was just discovering my poetic voice, I have an opportunity to note and measure my growth and see these seminal texts in a new light. When I wrote about Patricia Smith’s exquisite collection Blood Dazzler in August of 2019, I noted that reading it each summer is a practice that allows me to revisit my own distant experience of Hurricane Katrina while learning in-depth from Smith’s craft and composition. Last summer, as I read the book against a backdrop of pandemic lockdowns and national tragedy, I discovered new resonance in the deft persona work that effectively critiques the inadequate response to Katrina in 2005, mourns the deaths and destruction, and celebrates the resilience of those who survived. This summer as I reread it, I find myself drawn to these stories of resilience even more for the comfort and reassurance they provide. The durability of the collection and the stories it tells speaks to me of the hope and lingering fear in this pandemic moment.

Throughout the pandemic, as many sought poetry community online, Patricia Smith was a constant and steadying presence. Through readings, which she was both featured in and attended enthusiastically, her online birthday celebrationmarathon reading, and interviews (including this one I did with her and her husband, mystery writer Bruce DeSilva), she made the most of the opportunities Zoom and other online formats offered, which kept her work, particularly Blood Dazzler, ever present in my mind. Her poems continue to offer profound insight on a variety of contemporary issues, her experimentation with craft and form continue to expand my notion of the reach of poetry, and the work she has done to create and build community has made poetry feel even more significant as a place to come together and process a world that spins us through tragedy, triumph, horror, and beauty.

“5 P.M., Thursday, August 25, 2005,” “Siblings,” and “Katrina” are a mere sampling of the excellence in Blood Dazzler, providing a sense of how the collection moves through various characters, voices, time periods, and consequences of Hurricane Katrina. After reading and spending time with this fantastic work, you can read my original column on the poems here.


Amanda Moore‘s debut collection of poems, Requeening, was selected for the National Poetry Series and will be published by HarperCollins/Ecco in October 2021. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies including ZYZZYVA, Cream City Review, and Best New Poets, and she is the recipient of writing awards from The Writing Salon, Brush Creek Arts Foundation, and The Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts. Currently a Brown Handler Resident at the San Francisco Friends of the Public Library, Amanda is a high school teacher and Marin Poetry Center Board member, and she lives by the beach in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco with her husband and daughter. Author photo credit: Clementine Nelson.



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