Thursday, November 24, 2011

Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith

I'm new to poetry. Even with a MA in English Lit, I've somehow managed to more or less avoid poetry. Sure, I've read representative classics from the major literary traditions (in English, not much attention paid to poets who write in anything other than our mother tongue in academia unless you can read and translate from the original.) But contemporary poetry has been as foreign to me as Portuguese.

There were haikus; there were musings with rhythms suggesting lyrics for songs I did not know how to play or sing, but no poems. Poems were precious things for writers of purple prose with inflated egos, all that white spacing wasted on the page, just spit it out.

Then I started a certificate program in poetry, because that's the way bibliotherapy is legitimized these days. I wrote some poems, and felt better, more whole, more myself than after 100 hours of Jungian psychoanalysis.

And I started reading poetry. Reading in fits, armloads from the library, pulling anything that might look interesting off the shelves until the weight was maximum capacity for seeing my way down the stairs.

And I found BLOOD DAZZLER, poems by Patricia Smith, about Hurricane Katrina. And I don't have words to tell you. Just as we were struck dumb by the travesty, by both man & nature, unable to watch TV coverage without thinking, no this can't be, we woke to find the nightmare played out over weeks and we had to turn it off to get back to our own jobs, our own realities. Because what was happening down there wasn't real, it couldn't be, we couldn't be that inadequate in saving our own; we couldn't be that vulnerable here in the blah blah of blah.

Patricia Smith doesn't get political. Doesn't point fingers, lays no blame, though how can we not? Surely accountability is at hand? Mother Nature can't take all the blame.

Instead, BLOOD DAZZLER is reported. Journalism, a reporter's personal POV and interpretation of events not covered by the media. Quotes from correspondence between officials and counterpoints of the Bushs' day-to-day while the greatest crime of the century was being perpetrated provides insight covertly. We don't have to cry, we don't have to suffer humiliation, we don't have to care. But we do, because Patricia Smith has made the unimaginable accessible? In her poems, we can let our selves feel, just a little, of the horror and recognize, just a little, of the despair. Because frail humans we be, and a little is all our hearts can hold. Our minds take it all in but there's only a little our hearts can hold, providing a little help as part of the larger container needed to hold all the sadness of those who lived to survive a loss that overflows those old worn out levies still.