Photo of Crystal Simone Smith and book cover of Dark Testament: Blackout Poems

Dark Testament: Blackout Poems with Crystal Simone Smith

In this extraordinary collection, the award-winning poet Crystal Simone Smith gives voice to the mournful dead, their lives unjustly lost to violence, and to the grieving chorus of protestors in today’s Black Lives Matter movement, in search of resilience and hope. For this program, Smith reads from and discusses her collection Dark Testament: Blackout Poems, followed by an erasure poetry activity for attendees to create their own work within the form. Erasure poetry is “a form of found poetry wherein a poet takes an existing text and erases, blacks out, or otherwise obscures a large portion of the text, creating a wholly new work from what remains” (Academy of American Poets).

This program is presented in conjunction with our special exhibit Dark Testament: A Century of Black Writers on Justice, which you can now visit at the American Writers Museum. Registering for this program will grant you access to explore Dark Testament, as well as all of our other exhibits.

Dark Testament: Blackout Poems by Crystal Simone Smith book coverMore about Dark Testament: Blackout Poems

With poems found within the text of George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo, Crystal Simone Smith embarks on an uncompromising exploration of collective mourning and crafts a masterwork that resonates far beyond the page. These poems are visually stark, a gathering of gripping verses that unmasks a dialogue of tragic truths—the stories of lives taken unjustly and too soon.

Bold and deeply affecting, Dark Testament is a remarkable reckoning with our present moment, a call to action, and a plea for a more just future.

Along with the poems, Dark Testament includes a stirring introduction by the author that speaks to the content of the poetry, a Q&A with George Saunders, and a full-color photo-insert that commemorates victims of unlawful killings with photographs of memorials that have been created in their honor.

Praise for Dark Testament: Blackout Poems

I love this tremendously skillful, timely, and dazzling repurposing of passages of my novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. Crystal Simone Smith has, with her amazing ear and heart, found, in that earlier grief, a beautiful echo for our time.”
George SaundersNew York Times bestselling author of Lincoln in the Bardo and Tenth of December

CRYSTAL SIMONE SMITH is a poet, indie-publisher, and educator. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks, Down To Earth (2020), Running Music (2014), and Routes Home (2013). She co-authored, One Window’s Light: A Collection of Haiku, edited by Lenard D. Moore (2017), which won the Haiku Society of America’s Merit Book Award for Best Haiku Anthology. In 2019, she won the North Carolina Poetry Society Bloodroot Haiku Award. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Prairie Schooner, POETRY Magazine, Crab Orchard Review, Frogpond, and Modern Haiku. In 2020, she received a Duke University Humanities Unbounded Fellowship. She writes poetry about the human condition and social change.

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Feb 19 2023


Central Time
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

More Info



American Writers Museum
Chicago, Illinois

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