Dark Testament: Blackout Poems

Holt. Jan. 2023. 128p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250854360.
Gr 9 Up–Blackout poems created from George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo express the howling rage and grief of the loss of Black lives and the call to action for change. In blackout poetry, the creator blacks out most of the words from an existing text, and the remaining words become the poem. This collection includes poems that are mostly named after victims of police violence and white supremacy; some are named after phrases and movements, such as #BLM. The introduction explains the creation of the poems, then the book is divided into two parts; Part One ends with color photographs of memorials and artwork to victims. The first poem, “No Justice, No Peace,” reads “If such things as goodness and brotherhood and redemption exist, and may be attained, these must...require...the vanishing of the heartless oppressor....We are dead, I more—”. This short book ends with a conversation between Saunders and Smith in which they discuss their writing processes, what the “bardo” is, and more. Readers do not need to be familiar with Lincoln in the Bardo to understand the poems. Seared with emotional pain and truth, these poems use grief to provide context for the Black Lives Matter movement.
VERDICT A compelling and thoughtful read, and a great introduction to blackout poetry. A strong first purchase for libraries.

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