I found this poem in a chapbook entitled Counting Descent by Clint Smith, who is one of my favorite poets/writers/people to follow on Twitter. I was reading when I came across this poem and naturally thought this could serve as a good blog post, especially since we’re going to be looking at Blood Dazzler in class soon and we looked at poems in class last week.
Smith writes other poems about New Orleans and the effects of Hurricane Katrina, but I found this poem to be particularly relevant, plus it was online here along with some of his own commentary (I didn’t want to post pictures from my book because I wasn’t sure how the copyright laws worked with that).
Anyway, this poem really spoke to a lot of what we’ve discussed in class and even uses the line “When the levees broke.” In bringing up his parents, I feel that Smith is really questioning “origins” in this poem, as well as the concept of “ownership.” His inability to come to a conclusive answer on whether you can claim things based on how long you’ve lived somewhere comforts me since I’ve been finding myself asking more questions than I can possibly answer this semester. This uncertainty also gives credence to Beth’s assertion that “origins are tricky.”
I personally like this poem a lot because I think it’s very thought-provoking without being esoteric in its language (a common stereotype of poetry). I find myself returning to “i come from a city that is drowning while being told / it is rinsing itself clean” because it speaks to the idea of “purgation” that we’ve been grappling with as well as the literal geographic drowning shown in Unfathomable City. Smith’s hesitancy to accept that the city is rinsing itself clean again reminds me to be skeptical of that justification for “purgation.”
While I enjoy reading contemporary poetry, it is definitely not my area of expertise. If anyone sees anything really cool in this poem, feel free to comment on it or even just tell me because I think this is super interesting!