From Publishers Weekly
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. (Sept.)
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In her fifth collection, Smith, a poetry-slam champion and and recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, presents towering testament to the tragedy of New Orleans before, during, and after Katrina. Her ear for voice and gift for persona poems make for a complex, colloquial, thought-provoking, and nearly minute-to-minute account of the catastrophe that captures the power of nature and the failure of leadership. Smith’s observations are painstakingly revealing and unabashedly critical, especially juxtaposed against the beauty of her terse free verse and formal sestina and rhymed sonnets. Following Teahouse of the Almighty (2006), this accomplished work reaffirms her position as one of American’s strongest and most clarion poetic voices. As Smith writes of Katrina, so to it might be said of this book, “Never has there been / a wind like this. Its throaty / howl has memorized / my name. And it calls, and it / calls, and lamb to ax, I come.” --Mark Eleveld