Incendiary Art

by Patricia Smith


Winner, 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Finalist, 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
Winner, NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in the Poetry category
Winner, 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award
Winner, 2018 BCALA Best Poetry Award
Winner, Abel Meeropol Award for Social Justice
Finalist, Neustadt International Prize for Literature
Winner, 2021 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize

One of the most magnetic and esteemed poets in today's literary landscape, Patricia Smith fearlessly confronts the tyranny against the black male body and the tenacious grief of mothers in her compelling new collection, Incendiary Art. She writes an exhaustive lament for mothers of the "dark magicians," and revisits the devastating murder of Emmett Till. These dynamic sequences serve as a backdrop for present-day racial calamities and calls for resistance. Smith embraces elaborate and eloquent language-- "her gorgeous fallen son a horrid hidden / rot. Her tiny hand starts crushing roses--one by one / by one she wrecks the casket's spray. It's how she / mourns--a mother, still, despite the roar of thorns"-- as she sharpens her unerring focus on incidents of national mayhem and mourning. Smith envisions, reenvisions, and ultimately reinvents the role of witness with an incendiary fusion of forms, including prose poems, ghazals, sestinas, and sonnets. With poems impossible to turn away from, one of America's most electrifying writers reveals what is frightening, and what is revelatory, about history.

Publication Date: 
February 15, 2017