Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah

Overview

Winner of 2013 Wheatley Book Award in Poetry

Finalist for 2013 William Carlos Williams Award

"Patricia Smith is writing some of the best poetry in America today. Ms Smith’s new book, Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, is just beautiful—and like the America she embodies and represents—dangerously beautiful. Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah is a stunning and transcendent work of art, despite, and perhaps because of, its pain. This book shines." —Sapphire

"One...

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Overview

Winner of 2013 Wheatley Book Award in Poetry

Finalist for 2013 William Carlos Williams Award

"Patricia Smith is writing some of the best poetry in America today. Ms Smith’s new book, Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, is just beautiful—and like the America she embodies and represents—dangerously beautiful. Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah is a stunning and transcendent work of art, despite, and perhaps because of, its pain. This book shines." —Sapphire

"One of the best poets around and has been for a long time." —Terrance Hayes

"Smith's work is direct, colloquial, inclusive, adventuresome." —Gwendolyn Brooks

In her newest collection, Patricia Smith explores the second wave of the Great Migration. Shifting from spoken word to free verse to traditional forms, she reveals "that soul beneath the vinyl."

Patricia Smith is the author of five volumes of poetry, including Blood Dazzler, a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, and Teahouse of the Almighty, a National Poetry Series selection. She lives in New Jersey.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her title poem, Smith describes her mother and father debating what to call her. Smith’s mother bestowed on the poet a name fitting for a woman that would “never idly throat the Lord’s name or wear one/ of those thin, sparkled skirts that flirted with her knees./ She’d be a nurse or a third-grade teacher or a postal drone,/ jobs requiring alarm-clock discipline and sensible shoes.” But her father, though acquiescing, secretly called her Jimi Savannah, embodying “the blues-bathed moniker of a ball breaker, the name/ of a grown gal in a snug red sheath and unlaced All-stars.” This duality bursts forth in her poems about growing up on Chicago’s West Side, the place that lured her parents from Alabama promising a better life. The collection builds momentum with vivid, high-textured city scenes. “The city squared its teeth,” she writes and “smiled oil”; the chicken shack’s “slick cuisine served up in virgin white cardboard boxes with Tabasco/ nibbling the seams.” Motown saturates the language and weaves itself into Smith’s narratives. Focusing on the stinging memories of growing up black and a woman during the 1960s, one could overlook Smith’s mastery of rhyme rhythm and form, but it runs like an electric current throughout the collection. (May)
From the Publisher

“Patricia Smith’s dazzling new book sings Chicago and Detroit, the midcentury migration of African American families northward (They say it’s better up there . . .), to cities both harsh and alluring, cities that offer and withhold, raise hopes and dash them at once. Above all, Smith turns her attention—her passion, her fierce sonic powers—to Motown, that aural mirage, the shimmering promises inherent in ‘every wall of horn, every slick choreographed / swivel . . .’ Here is one of our essential poets at the top of her form, bristling with energy and fire, praise and outrage. There’s no one like Patricia Smith, and her bold, necessary poems light up the American twentieth century in all its song and sorrow.” —Mark Doty

“From the Mississippi Delta to Chicago, these poems embody America. Patricia Smith is a formidably gifted poet (‘Motown Crown’ is stunning), yet perhaps her greatest gift is her openness—my heart is made larger when I live with any of her words, if only for awhile.” —Nick Flynn

“At her best Patricia Smith writes poems full of risk and courage, thick with pain and alive with insight and humor. At her best, Patricia Smith confronts memory with delight and alarm, and manages to find music in the abject and callow. At her best, Patricia Smith has discovered the necessary equation to make beautiful, memorable poems: she calls it ‘the crunch / of bone, suck of marrow.’ In Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, part elegy to things past, part epic poem of migration and the planting of roots, part anthem to Chicago, to family, to the deepest unspeakable secrets of a girl’s coming of age, Patricia Smith is at her best, and the gift she presents to us is truly, truly priceless.” —Kwame Dawes

"Smith doesn't clog up the end of the poem with an easy, insincere moral; she just tells her story and gets offstage, which is exactly the right thing to do."The Stranger

"Patricia Smith is writing some of the best poetry in America today. Ms Smith’s new book, Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, is just beautiful—and like the America she embodies and represents—dangerously beautiful. Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah is a stunning and transcendent work of art, despite, and perhaps because of, its pain. This book shines." —Sapphire

"Smith is a powerhouse poet. Her poems are as tightly constructed as masonry, yet they are quick-footed, spinning, singing, funny, and heartbreaking. . . . Smith’s immediate, deeply compassionate, magnificently detailed narrative poems of one young woman’s complicated coming-of-age embody the sorrows, outrage, and transcendence of race-bedeviled, music-redeemed twentieth-century America.” Booklist

“First of all, wow. This book is a treasure.”—The California Journal of Women Writers

"Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah is about the Great Migration, when a half million African Americans left the South and moved to Chicago between 1916 and 1970. [S]mith evokes parents and children in the new urban environment." The Pioneer Press

“[A] whole-cloth remembrance, lament, and celebration that is not to be missed.”—Coldfront, “Top 40 Poetry Books of 2012”

"Patricia Smith's newest collection, Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, evokes a sense of history and self-awareness combined with precise storytelling and the most crafted verse. . . . In her current incarnation, we find one of the most authentic voice of Modern American Poetry." —Pank Magazine

"The people here are so vividly drawn that the reader is deep in their world by the fourth poem of the book, and what a rich, many-layered world Smith creates, full of passion, struggle, and a fierce and vivid surviving, behind which, all 'swerve and pivot,' all 'languid, liquid, luscious' is Motown. . . . Smith's poems are their own powerful music." Mead Magazine

"Welcome to a place of hopes and dreams punctured with rawness and pain. Patricia Smith's autobiographical epic is cinematic in scale yet music box in intimacy. . . . Smith compresses culture 'til it peals like crystal—like singing light." The Brooklyn Rail

"This is a wry collection of memories of growing up, learning to lie (to get out at night), learning to be sexy, learning to walk just so, learning to hide . . . and then, finally, learning to be proud of who and what she is." —RALPH Mag

"Smith’s rhythms create a life-breath almost as potent as Motown’s beat itself. . . . [her] fresh diction is surprising enough to be almost a new language."—Rattle

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566892995
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press
  • Publication date: 3/27/2012
  • Pages: 116
  • Sales rank: 950,719
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Patricia Smith is the author of five volumes of poetry, including Blood Dazzler, a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, and Teahouse of the Almighty, a National Poetry Series selection. She is also the author of the history Africans in America and the award-winning children’s book Janna and the Kings. She is a professor at the City University of New York, and lives in New Jersey with her husband Bruce DeSilva, granddaughter Mikaila, and two dogs, Brady and Rondo.
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