Blood Dazzler

Poetry by Patricia Smith

September 1, 2008 • 6 x 9 • 90 pages • 978-1-56689-218-6

A storm’s-eye view of the devastation that forever changed New Orleans and America.

In minute-by-minute detail, Patricia Smith tracks Hurricane Katrina’s transformation into a full-blown mistress of destruction. From August 23, 2005, the day Tropical Depression 12 developed, through August 28 when it became a Category 5 storm with its “scarlet glare fixed on the trembling crescent,” to the heartbreaking aftermath, these poems evoke the horror that unfolded in New Orleans as America watched on television.

Assuming the voices of flailing politicians, the dying, their survivors, and the voice of the hurricane itself, Smith follows the woefully inadequate relief effort and stands witness to the immeasurable losses. An unforgettable reminder that poetry can still be “news that stays news,” Blood Dazzler serves not only as a memorial, but as a necessary step toward national healing.

About the Author

Patricia Smith is the author of six volumes of poetry, including Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the 2013 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets and the Phillis Wheatley Award from the Quarterly Black Review; Blood Dazzler, a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and Teahouse of the Almighty, a National Poetry Series selection. Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays, and Best American Mystery Stories. 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, and her dogs Brady and Rondo.

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired. To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.


“Out of the maelstrom of the Slam, Patricia Smith conjures a harsh and elegant poetry in Blood Dazzler. Readers suspicious of her performance pedigree will note the formal ingenuity, whether sonnet, tanka, or collage. At the same time, the audience who prefers the live mic will be seized by the power of her voices, including that of Katrina ‘in full tantrum.’ From a confluence of poetic sensibilities, in a hot political wind, Smith rises above mere topicality to address timeless concerns.” —National Book Award judges’ citation

“Hurricane Katrina has receded from the national news, but the destruction it wrought has found testimony in literature. Patricia Smith’s fierce, blood-in-the-mouth collection of poems, a finalist for the National Book Award, grows out of this disaster and already has the whiff and feel of folklore.” —John Freeman, NPR

“Smith’s sensibility and facility with the vernacular, combined with her enormous poetic gifts, imbued her with everything she needed in order to write about the victims of Hurricane Katrina. . . . Blood Dazzler is the narrative of a shameful tragedy, but it is lyrical and beautiful, like a hymn we want to sing over and over until it lives in our collective memory.” —Charleston Post and Courier

“Patricia Smith brings an incantatory brilliance to the horror of that hurricane and our nation’s shameful response to it. . . . A work of awful beauty.” Star Tribune

“An astonishing poetic narrative. . . . Smith defiantly, bravely, imagines the unimaginable.” Brooklyn Rail

“Each poem provides a beautiful and fiercely painful encounter, which commands the full emotional attention of the reader. . . . Blood Dazzler, in years to come, may be the definitive collection of poetry to chronicle Hurricane Katrina.” New Delta Review

“A searing portrait of the horrors wrought by Hurricane Katrina.” Isthmus

“Powerful, visceral . . . a resonant and devastating portrait of a vivacious city’s destruction.” Open Letters

“A necessary read for all Americans.” —Bustle

“Patricia Smith is gifted beyond reason. Fluid, impassioned, inexorably profound, she puts fire to the page with such brilliance you don’t even have to like poetry to be arrested by her hand.” Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

“It is one thing to know the facts of a human tragedy, quite another to know it with the nerves, feel it in your gut. In these poems . . . the surging rage of that mad woman Katrina washes over us; we hear the voice of New Orleans itself.” Small Press Review

“[Smith] brings the effects of Katrina right up to the reader’s nose and blows the sweetest and most sour music towards our hearts. To read these poems and not be affected is impossible. You will be seared by the grit and spirit of these people, the landscape, and the true force of nature.” Feminist Review

“[Smith] is observant and precise; she captures a moment in our history that many will never forget.” Coldfront Magazine

“This is personification at its best. We enter Katrina’s mind. We see the world through her ‘solo swallowing eye.’ . . . Blood Dazzler is hauntingly beautiful.” Daily Sentinel

“A lyrical, political, sensory and utterly amazing feat that only an artist of [Patricia Smith’s] caliber, heart and imagination could pull off.” The Root

“Powerful, comprehensive and moving. . . . This is less a book about death than about life. It is about the will to live, the resilience of the spirit.” Pedestal Magazine

Blood Dazzler is a shining example of what poetry can do for a country. . . . She has defined poetry by communicating Blood Dazzler. Smith is a champion for the dead, and the rest of us, surviving.” Gently Read Literature

“Accessible and daring. . . . This book will stand out among literary records of Katrina’s devastation.” Publishers Weekly

“[Smith’s] 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. . . . This accomplished work reaffirms her position as one of America’s strongest and most clarion poetic voices.” Booklist

“Fierce and moving . . . full of anger and spice and wit.” —New Orleans Times-Picayune