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Blood Dazzler Paperback – September 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

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
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 90 pages
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156689218X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566892186
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Patricia Smith is the author of five volumes of poetry, including Blood Dazzler, a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, Teahouse of the Almighty, a National Poetry Series selection, and Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah. A professor for the City University of New York and a Cave Canem faculty member, she lives in New Jersey with her husband, Edgar Award-winning novelist Bruce DeSilva, her granddaughter Mikaila, and two humungous dogs, Brady and Rondo.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Oscar Bermeo on October 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
Patricia Smith's Blood Dazzler writes in the moment of Hurricane Katrina, from the formation of Katrina all the way to its monstrous after effects on the citizens on New Orleans, from every internal view point possible. Persona poems written in the voice of Katrina, New Orleans (before and during the storm), former FEMA Director Michael Brown, Ethel Freeman and family, the 34 victims of St Rita's, and even a local dog left out to weather the storm.

Utilizing a variety of poetic forms (sestina, ghazal, tanka, abecedarian) and shifts in language that relay power, dread, scorn, and (ultimately) survival, this collection moves past the trend of poetics emerging from large scope tragedies--where the poet writes in simple response to the tragedy but rarely places the poetic speaker in the complexities of the tragedy itself--and sets a new benchmark for the poetics of witness.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By doc peterson VINE VOICE on May 31, 2010
Format: Paperback
_Blood Dazzler_ is a collection of poems around Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. The works have the impact of a closed fist, beginning with the storm's growth, its building strength, the anticipation of its arrival and landfall and later, the monumental mishandling of the disaster (natural and man-made).

I was particularly moved with "Man on the TV say":

"Go. He say it simple, grey eyes straight on and watered,
he say it in the machine throat they got.
On the wall behind him, there's a moving picture
of the sky dripping something worse than rain.
Go, he say. Pick up y'all black asses and run.
... Uh-huh. Like our bodies got wheels and gas,
like at the end of running there's an open door
with dry and song inside. ..."

That the poor and black and marginalized were the hardest hit, the most exploited and the least capable to re-build and return are now a thing of legend. The injustice of it is powerfully presented here. As Smith writes in one of the concluding poems:

" ... Separate God's name from your prayer, and hope
He remembers the brutal long-ago ways of magick:
Blood in the water.
Blood cleanses water."

For many, (residents of the Gulf coast in particular) Katrina is something they'd rather forget. I disagree - those of us untouched by the tragedy would do well not to forget. Smith's poems show why it is important to remember.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C. O. Aptowicz on September 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
"Blood Dazzler" is the latest of Patricia Smith's nuanced poetry collections cataloguing the American experience, but I have found this one to be the best yet.

Focusing her undeniable talent, sharp ears and limitless heart on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, Smith is able to explore the events, the city and its people in ways that feel both fresh and familiar. These are people we know, stories we've heard, and yet Smith does not pity, nor glorify, nor treat the situation as a lamentable but distant "other."

As with her previous books, Smith gives it to us straight. She allows us to see people as they are -- as human, as flawed, as beautiful. Smith fearlessly explores the entire landscape of the tragedy with poems from POV of FEMA workers nestled next to poems from the perspective of abandoned dogs, poems about displaced school children next to poems about triumph drag queens slogging through the mud, even the Superdome, Hurricane Betsy and Hurricane Katrina, herself, have their say. Smith explores the darkest corners of this tragedy, but also sees the light as well, as faith and endurance are celebrated.

This is truly American book about a regrettably American tragedy, and Patricia Smith remains true to herself as one of the boldest voices we have in American poetry.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amanda on December 4, 2014
Format: Paperback
I'll start this review with a little background: I majored in creative writing in college with a focus on poetry. Of those four years of classes, I read (both for class and on my own) around 100 poetry books. Thanks to Good Reads, I can tell you that since 2010 I've read 436 books. I very rarely re-read books, believing there are too many written to continue with the same, so of those 436 I've re-read a total of 6 (and 5 of those were part of a series I was familiarizing myself with again).

Taking that into account, Blood Dazzler is the #1 poetry book I remember from college and I have read it four times. I could stop this review here and let those numbers speak for her work themselves, but I think you want more than that.

Blood Dazzler is a work of art in a rare and naked form. It's a story of Hurricane Katrina, beginning at the time she was named a tropical depression and taking the reader on a journey through the force and eye of the storm to the aftermath. There are so many different points of view and all of them are incredible, though my favorites are ones from the POV of Hurricane Katrina. Those poems are so strong and unique, but written as if Smith knew the hurricane personally, as if Smith was Katrina's conscious and was the only one able to put in words what Katrina thought as she laid waste to New Orleans.

The other POV that stayed with me was Luther B, the dog left behind, and it was heartbreaking to read his thoughts of the storm as he stayed alone and trapped by a chain to a tree as the wind howled and rain beat him like God's own angry fists.

Even just having these original ideas would have been enough for me, but Smith is amazing with her writing and each line written is perfection.
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