Clint Smith's debut poetry collection, Counting Descent, is a coming of age story that seeks to complicate our conception of lineage and tradition.
Smith explores the cognitive dissonance that results from belonging to a community that unapologetically celebrates black humanity while living in a world that often renders blackness a caricature of fear. His poems move fluidly across personal and political histories, all the while reflecting on the social construction of our lived experiences. Smith brings the reader on a powerful journey forcing us to reflect on all that we learn growing up, and all that we seek to unlearn moving forward.
"So many of these poems just blow me away. Incredibly beautiful and powerful."
- Michelle Alexander, Author of The New Jim Crow
"In Counting Descent, Clint Smith reflects "even the universe is telling us/ that we can never get too far// from the place that created us." Smith weaves histories, from collective to personal, to make indelible archetypes of those places that have created us all. These poems shimmer with revelatory intensity, approaching us from all sides to immerse us in the America that America so often forgets. The broad sweep of Smith's vision delivers a sudden awareness: In this poet's hands, we sense, like Rilke, there is no place that does not see you."
- Gregory Pardlo, Author of Digest
Counting Descent is a tightly-woven collection of poems whose pages act like an invitation to New Orleans, to the spades' table, to mom's kitchen, to the kiss on a woman's wrist, to conversations with hydrants and cicadas. The invitation is intimate and generous and also a challenge; are you up to asking what is blackness? What is black joy? How is black life loved and lived? To whom do we―this human We― look to for answers? This invitation is not to a narrow street, or a shallow lake, but to a vast exploration of life. And death. In a voice that has the echoes of Baldwin, but that also declares itself a singular voice, Smith extends: "Maybe there's a place where everyone is both in love with and running from their own skin. Maybe that place is here." And you're invited.
- Elizabeth Acevedo, Author of Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths
Winner, 2017 Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Award