- WitnessingResistance Poetry
Crystal Simone Smith’s haiku is infused with a profound love for and appreciation of the natural world. As one of a growing community of Black haiku poets, Smith’s work is also that of an activist, born from her life as a Black woman and mother of two Black sons. Her words resonate as much-needed interventions during a time—like so many other moments in our nation’s history—when it is all too harrowing to be Black and human. Her haiku “election night map,” written in response to Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s Fifty Shades of White [right], exemplifies the art of distilling the moment. Smith’s work is shaped by her commitment to her craft and her refusal to look away. As she notes, “We have an obligation to respond to the immense ongoing inhumanity we are witnessing, ragingly so.” A poet whose work is at once haunting and human, Smith’s witness, her activism, is necessary reading.
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Fifty Shades of White (detail), 2018. Mixed media on canvas. Promised gift of Nancy A. Nasher (L’79, P’18, P’22) and David J. Haemisegger (P’18, P’22). Image courtesy of the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York. © Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.
Select poems have appeared elsewhere: “slave museum” (Pinesong), “slave quarters” (Earthsigns: 2017 Haiku North America Anthology), “in the midst” and “noontide” (Modern Haiku), “downtown rebuild” and “another mass shooting” (One Window’s Light: A Collection of Haiku). [End Page 176]
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election night mapthe bloody southremains bloody
slave museum—the entrance fountainan ebbing shore
tide poolthe silent panicof silver fish
in the midstof killingsthe flowers return
pool hall—I beat the hajibedwoman’s husband
downtown rebuilda preacher sermonshis homeless congregation
another mass shootingmy son practiceshis trumpet solo
noontidehousekeepers gossipunder the palms
slave quartersin one bricka thumbprint
synagogue shootinga spring clotheslineof waving colors [End Page 177]
crystal simone smith is an award-winning poet. She founded and serves as the managing editor of Backbone Press. Her haiku have appeared in Frogpond, Modern Haiku, and elsewhere. She is the author of Wild Flowers (2016) and coauthor of One Window’s Light (Unicorn Press, 2017). She is currently a Humanities Unbounded Fellow at Duke University.
A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, sheila smith mckoy serves as provost and vice president of academic affairs at Holy Names University, a campus with a history of social justice engagement. She holds a BA from North Carolina State University, an MA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a PhD from Duke University.