In general, I am not a fan of poems. I don’t usually get them, they’re often difficult to read, and can be too short to get into or long and rambling. However, I’d seen multiple good recommendations for Patricia Smith’s poems. She was also at The Nature of Words last month. I wish now that I would have gone to see her reading.
The poems in Blood Dazzler are set in New Orleans as Katrina approaches and devastates the city. The poems are in chronological order often with a report from the National Hurricane Center about the status of the storm or other factual information. For me this really helped to tie the poems together. The images of the storm coming are intense. From “She Sees What It Sees”:
And the levees crackled,
And baptism rushed through the ward,
Blasting the boasts from storefronts,
Sweeping away the rooted, the untethered,
Bending doors, withering the strength of stoops.
I began to wonder about Patricia Smith. Was she in New Orleans during Katrina? Her book jacket says she lives in New York. How could someone who wasn’t there capture these images? Her website didn’t really enlighten me: http://wordwoman.ws/index.html. Regardless, these are amazing poems in the way they convey the rage, terror, and helplessness surely experienced during Katrina.
From a poem titled “34”, referring to the nursing home where 34 bodies were found:
They left us. Me. Him. Our crinkled hands.
They left our hard histories, our gone children and storytells.
They left the porch creaking.
They left us to our God,
But our God was mesmerized elsewhere,
Watching His rain.
I started reading these poems the same day our newspaper had an article titled “Long after Katrina, Children Still Suffer” by Shaila Dewan. A telling sentence: “After more than three years of nomadic uncertainty, many of the children of Hurricane Katrina are behind in school, acting out and suffering from extraordinarily high rates of illness and mental health problems.” It is hard to believe that kids have lost years of schooling because of Katrina. What is going in the state or federal government that has allowed this to happen?