Close to Death

( 1 )

Overview

Homicide, drug abuse, and AIDS-related deaths have forced black male life expectancy into a steady decline. In New York City, black males have long been considered expendable. Young men who feel they have run out of options, whose bravado indicates they are no longer afraid to die, wear baseball caps emblazoned with "C2D," for close to death. This chilling cry comes from those who expect to lose their lives violently without ever having a chance to live. Close to Death, a book of poems amplifying the voices and ...
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Overview

Homicide, drug abuse, and AIDS-related deaths have forced black male life expectancy into a steady decline. In New York City, black males have long been considered expendable. Young men who feel they have run out of options, whose bravado indicates they are no longer afraid to die, wear baseball caps emblazoned with "C2D," for close to death. This chilling cry comes from those who expect to lose their lives violently without ever having a chance to live. Close to Death, a book of poems amplifying the voices and souls of black men at various stages of their lives, is a poetic requiem for those who struggle against the odds, for those who have resigned themselves to death, and for those already gone.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Big Towns, Big Talk:

"This Woman is powerful." -- The Village Voice Literary Supplement

"A vigorous, impressive talent." -- Booklist 

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``A daughter who grew to write screams / can't bring you back,'' Smith writes about her murdered father. In another admittedly autobiographical poem, she describes her teenage son witnessing the murder of his friend. Fueled by passion and a sense of urgency, many of the pieces here meet the promise of Smith's ( Big Towns, Big Talk ) two previous collections. Her acute ear for the intricacies of speech adds vitality to poems written in the voices of black men she encounters amid the inner-city squalor of Chicago and Boston: the homeless man outside the hospital, the undertaker who hardens himself to mothers' requests to make up their dead sons' faces to resemble their recent high school photos. Less successful are monologues by Little Richard, Ray Charles, Michael Jackson and other black celebrities, with the exception of three pieces that use Smokey Robinson and his music as a metaphor for personal exploration--the 13-year-old sneaking into an older boy's party and dancing as Smokey sings; the adult standing in the crowd waiting for Smokey's autograph: ``and Smokey not even looking as he wrote it.'' Memorable as poems in their own right, these three portraits of the female speaker's journey to adulthood also bridge the gap between the stage and the street. Ironic depictions of the poet's own black culture as she imagines it perceived by whites contribute a welcome note of levity. (Oct.)
Library Journal
``I get this feeling/ we in some kinda fishbowl. Everybody looking, but nobody/ care when that fish start floating on top. Don't bother me/ that we're expected to die. Everybody expected to die./ What bothers me is that nobody cares if we do.'' Young black men in the cities have taken to wearing clothes with the cryptic message ``C2D''--Close to Death--because, as they see it, so many of them are. Smith's poems give voice to the torment, frustration, and pain so real to these young hostages to a time and place where the odds weigh heavily against them. Homicide, drug abuse, and AIDS have spawned a generation of callous young men. But more than resignation haunts these poems. These voices of sons, brothers, lovers, and fathers are strong, passionate, and fearless. Souls rage from the hellfire of the streets, and Smith effectively captures the language and urgency, the rhythms and fury. She understands the redemptive power of humor and the saving grace of each barb traded on the street corners. In these lines there is even a hint of hope. Recommended.-- Louis McKee, Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780944072356
  • Publisher: Steerforth Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 1,465,934
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Smith is the author of the poetry collection Big Towns, Big Talk, also published by Zoland Books, and co-author with Charles Johnson of Africans in America, a history of slavery and the subject of a popular PBS series.
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Table of Contents

Prelude 1
My Life as a Baseball Game 5
Edward or Edwin 11
Terrell's Take on Things 14
Willie Franklin's Take on Things 18
The Room with the Star 20
Watching Buddy Guy Watch the White Boys 23
That Nigga's Crazy 25
Ol' Man Johnson in the Dr. Watt Choir 27
Waiting for Louis to Spill the Beans 30
Brother Ray 33
Us, and the World Outside 35
Reconstruction 41
On the Stoop 42
Smokey Lied I 44
Heat and Sweetness 47
Going Back Down South 49
Supernova Legendary 51
A Letter from Walpole Prison, 3/16/93 53
Fifty Singles 55
Runnin' with Chuck 57
Smokey Lied II 59
Cooley & Scoot 60
Nothing Pulling Him Down 62
They Say That Black People ... 64
What I Would Have Told Oprah, Had She Asked 66
Smokey Lied III 68
Nothing Worth Saving 70
Undertaker 71
A Poem for the Man Who Shot My Father 77
The Undertaker's Son 79
Always in the Head 80
The Two Boys Who Knew Jules 82
On the Madison St. Bus, Chicago 83
The Dark Magicians 85
For Marvin, Who Died Tomorrow 86
The Train Ride 88
Newborn 90
In His Room. With Him Gone 91
CRIPtic Comment 92
Sweet Daddy 95
The Touching of Him 98
The Man on the Darkie Toothpaste Box 100
Discovering Country 102
Spinning Till You Get Dizzy 104
Bathing in Blues 107
Succumbing to Temptations 110
The Music Swells. Fade to Black 112
A Found Poem 114
A Motherfucker Too 115
Daddy Braids my Hair 117
Squashed Moon 119
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2003

    Articulate and Uncompromising

    This compilation by one of America's best Slam poets has a way of shaking the complacency of so much that passes for poetry, from stale imitators of the Beats to the constipated stasis of High-Modernists. Smith's eminence in the Academy of American Poets is well earned; her verse delivers, and will never disappoint.

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