cover image Dark Testament

Dark Testament

Crystal Simone Smith. Holt, $19.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-250-85436-0

Poet Smith presents an affecting collection of blackout poems—pieces developed by redacting sections of an existing work to create something new—using passages from George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo, which the author notes was chosen due to the work eerily articulating the despair I held.” In an opening call to action that reverberates throughout the rest of the collection, Smith implores the reader to light a “conscience flame in honor of those killed by violence” and carry that flame “into a more just future.” Several pieces are named for victims of unjust killings, including Ahmad Arbery, Tamir Rice, and Breonna Taylor. Smith’s clever use of blackout poetry works as a visual counterpart for the book’s themes surrounding resistance against erasure while examining the close-knit bonds between family members and their deceased loved ones, such as Trayvon Martin and his mother in “Sybrina Fulton” (“Please know/ that you were a joy”), and serving as appeals to lawmakers, as in “Mr. Politician” (“We are/ angry,/ our hopes/ dead”). Written in response to the murder of George Floyd, according to the author’s introduction, this touching memorial to the Black lives lost to systemic racism is a rousing homage to those protesting in their honor, who refuse to let these deaths be in vain. Photographs feature throughout; a conversation between Smith and Saunders concludes. Ages 14–up. (Jan.)