by Patricia Smith
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Pub Date 15 Feb 2023 | Archive Date Not set
Northwestern University Press, TriQuarterly
Unshuttered: Poems is the vessel for poetic personae and a selection of antique photographs of Black Americans, which Patricia Smith has collected over the course of twenty years. In these hard-to-find images, men, women, and children peer at us from the past, stripped of their lives and histories. Smith’s language and searing lines ghost-story the unnamed forebears who daguerreotype-stare from the page while backdropping the poet’s own losses:
We ache for fiction etched in black and white. Our eyes
never touch. These tragic grays and bustles, mourners’
hats plopped high upon our tamed but tangled crowns, strain
to disguise what yearning does with us.
This masterful and haunting mosaic is a search for lost histories, both personal and inherited, from an incendiary era in human history. Bound in black and white, these faces, staring back, find a home and resting place in the words of one of American literature’s finest wordsmiths. In return, the wordsmith uncovers her own unknown history.
PRAISE FOR PATRICIA SMITH
“Her work is always timely, powerful, necessary, and at turns heartbreaking.” —Natasha Trethewey, author of Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir
“Patricia Smith is a masterful poet, performer, and pundit. And while her chosen field is the form and grace of language, her gift to the world that orbits the Black experience is truth.” —Walter Mosley, author of The Awkward Black Man: Stories
“Over the course of her career, Patricia Smith has a reputation for tackling complicated ideas, combining humor and tragedy, and bridging the gap between spoken word and lyrical prose.” —Alex Dueben, The Millions
“A great stage performer and a former national slam poetry champion, Smith is also a performer on the page.” —John S. O’Connor, Harvard Review
“Smith has a way of shining light into the darkness with a necessary and timely tongue of fire, challenging readers to open their eyes and face the truth.” —Kathryn de Lancellotti, The Bind
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