Counting Descent


Product Details

$17.00  $15.81
Write Bloody Publishing
Publish Date
5.9 X 8.8 X 0.2 inches | 0.3 pounds

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About the Author

Clint Smith is a staff writer at The Atlantic. He is the author of the narrative nonfiction book, How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America, which was a #1 New York Times Bestseller, and the poetry collection Counting Descent, which won the 2017 Literary Award for Best Poetry Book from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. His essays, poems, and scholarly writing have been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review, the Harvard Educational Review and elsewhere. Clint received his B.A. in English from Davidson College and a Ph.D. in Education from Harvard University.


"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

"In Counting Descent, Clint Smith soars and patiently walks between Harvard Square and New Orleans, between the gap in his father's teeth and Baldwin's conversation with the Protest Novel, between the movement of Drake's hands and joy of sliding down a slide with his mother. Nothing, not one word, verse or line feels forced. This is only important because though most of the book feels written in what artist call "the pocket," nothing here feels at all safe. Clint Smith dares to be naked, dares to show the reader how and why he gets dressed, and in a way I'm still trying to understand, his work ask us to show, tell, imagine and remember too. Counting Descent is more than brilliant. More than lyrical. More than bluesy. More than courageous. It is terrifying in its ability to at once not hide and show readers why it wants to hide so badly. These poems mend, meld and imagine with weighted details, pauses, idiosyncrasies and word patterns I've never seen before. This book is supposed to be a great idea. It's not supposed to work. But it does. It so does. I wish I wrote this book. Since I can't, thank goodness Clint Smith did. Counting Descent does not take my breath away; it, in so many ways, gives me more ways to breathe."

- Kiese Laymon, Author of Long Division