Dark Testament : Blackout Poems by Crystal Simone Smith

Published on April 10, 2023

a man looking down image made up of strips like blackout poetry .jpg

Reviewed by Samantha Calderone

Crystal Simone Smith, has created a deeply moving and thoughtful collection of blackout poetry using various passages from George Saunders’ novel Lincoln in the Bardo. Dark Testament: Blackout Poems was created by Smith in response to the killing of George Floyd and the start of the Black Lives Matter movement. “It is a tribute to Black lives lost in our often dark world, and a testament to the fragility of our world, one where we struggle, with great vigor, to coexist as humans.”

Split into two parts, the collection of poems looks at aspects of Black lives and how they are impacted due to biases and racism. Using the names of movements and people as poem titles, each poem holds its own measure of impact. This collection is meant to be read as an interactive text, in the sense that as each poem ends the reader should take a moment to reflect on its meaning. While each poems stands well on its own, Smith has created a collection of poems that read like a singular story, in the sense that each poem represents a chapter, with a clear beginning, middle and end.

This collection also includes a brief “In memoriam” section full of images of murals and memorial sites. The use of images creates an even larger impact, as some of the murals are of people mentioned in the poems. It allows readers to put a face to the name and understand what their deaths mean for an entire community.

The collection ends with a section capturing a conversation between Smith and Saunders. Smith makes a mention as to why she used Saunders’ text to create her poems, and how he created a world that tore back the curtain of biases, social classes and race to show that suffering is felt by all. In a similar way, Smith’s poems portray the same message while also making a statement.

This novel is an eye-opening choice for Poetry Month and may appeal to readers of George Sanders’ books.  


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