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Patricia Smith is a poet, performance artist, author, and teacher. She has published five books of poetry including Close to Death (1993), Teahouse of the Almighty (2006), and Blood Dazzler (2008) which was a finalist for the National Book Award. The winner of a Pushcart Prize, Smith is a four-time individual National Poetry Slam champion.
While Patricia Smith got her start in poetry as a slam poet, her most recent collection of poetry speaks to her ability to perform on the page as well with all the force, vibrancy, and conviction that she demonstrates at the microphone. Blood Dazzler is a sequence that explores the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, specifically focusing on the tremendous destruction and loss of life caused in New Orleans. Natural disasters and political turmoil can be difficult subjects to write about convincingly, but Smith uses the full power of direct language to engage with her reader.
The easiest way to describe Blood Dazzler is to say that it is like a slap in the face; Smith never sidesteps the fear, death, and loss that her subject is fraught with. And although she always confronts the issues head on, the most powerful weapon at work in Smith's writing is her sense of rhythm and sound that clearly come from her slam background. She describes "the slow wilting jazz of their legs / razored by the murk" and the battered people who struggle with "that first blessing--forward, forward, / not getting the joke of their paper shoes, / not knowing the sidewalks are gone." Again and again she forces us to confront the suffering of the residents of New Orleans by grabbing our attention with driving rhythms.