The National Book Award finalists were just announced by Scott Turow via live web video (watch), and Harriet emeritus Patricia Smith. Blood Dazzler By Patricia Smith Hardcover, 90 pages. Coffee House Press List price: $ SIBLINGS Hurricanes, Arlene learned to. BLOOD DAZZLER is a tale of the storm we should have seen coming and the sociopolitical firestorm left in its wake. Based on Patricia Smith’s award-winning.

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The physical destruction was to be expected. The Gulf region is prone to hurricanes. But there was a damning psychological undercurrent with more strength than any storm. At the root of it was the fact that most of the people affected by Hurricane Katrina were poor and black, a fact that — in the eyes of many — made the tragedy much less important.

After all, bad things happen to black folks all the time — this one was just riveting to watch. And the depth of government deception patriica numbing.

It helped to think of Katrina as a human story, not a regional one. Animals are trusted to the weather and lost all the time — Luther B just happened to live in New Orleans.

Our elderly are often thought of as disposable. Bush is just the latest in a long line of dangerously clueless politicians. As the saying goes, if you miss one — just wait.


There we were, as a country, standing at the juncture of blatant incompetence, commercial greed, political cluelessness and barely veiled racism. There was a storm, and the land was scarred and buildings were broken and may never be rebuilt.

During Katrina, the tragedies were just piled one upon the other, and it was numbing.

Here is who I was. For me, that story was the one of the thirty-four St.

Blood Dazzler

I read that story, written in that terse and factual journalistic prose, and was immediately accosted by the plaintive wails, the feel of humidity on the skin, the sudden darkness, the sour smell of drenched bedding. Whenever she pressed that button, a nurse came in to attend to her needs. When I thought about St. The lights were out, the water was rising, and no one was coming. At the time, I had no intention of devoting an entire manuscript to the disaster, but I was driven to create a piece that began with dim flailing images, the sound of frantic prayer and the eerie whisper of rising waters.

With the deaths of those thirty-four people, an insistent tribute took shape, trying to push silenced voices to the surface. After I finished that poem, I was reading it at a poetry festival in Palm Beach, Florida, and a woman almost directly in the center of the audience seemed to be very disturbed.

After the reading, I approached her. Do you mind if I ask why? She looked like a rat trapped under the stove — eyes wild and darting everywhere, mouth moving with no sound coming out. It made me think. To some people, Katrina was a jolting wake-up call, a focal point for a national conversation with no end.


Other folks just wanted the damn thing to go away. I was horrified to realize how many people were waiting for the next big thing. After all, a hurricane that killed and displaced thousands of poor mostly black folks had nothing whatsoever to do with them.

Well, good for them.

Blood Dazzler | Patricia Smith

And when I did, I realized how many voices, how many visions, I had internalized. Once I realized that the poems would be released as a book, I admit that being accused of appropriation was my biggest worry.

I experienced the story of Katrina that same way thousands of other people did — on television, on radio, in newspapers, online.

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Poems Excerpted From ‘Blood Dazzler’

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