Counting Descent

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Clint Smith, 2016

A Write Bloody Book

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Black Harvard Doctorate in Poetics launches poetry that explores modern blackness.

From the author of How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America, Clint Smith’s debut poetry collection, Counting Descent, is a coming of age story that seeks to complicate our conception of lineage and tradition.

“Do you know what it means for your existence to be defined by someone else’s intentions?”

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.

* Winner, 2017 Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Award

* Finalist, 2017 NAACP Image Awards

* “One Book One New Orleans” 2017 Book Selection

* Published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review, New Republic, Boston Review, The Guardian, The Rumpus, and The Academy of American Poets

Praise for Clint Smith

“So many of these poems just blow me away. Incredibly beautiful and powerful.”

– Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow

“Counting Descent is a tightly-woven collection of poems whose pages act like an invitation. 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 look to for answers? This invitation is not to a narrow street, or a shallow lake, but to a vast exploration of life. And you’re invited.

– Elizabeth Acevedo, author of The Poet X

“These poems shimmer with revelatory intensity, approaching us from all sides to immerse us in the America that America so often forgets.”

– Gregory Pardlo, author of Digest

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.”

– Kiese Laymon, author of Long Division

About Clint Smith

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.

Additional information

Weight10 oz
Dimensions8.5 × 5.5 × .5 in
Page Count

84 pages

Publication Date

September 15th, 2016

Author Hometown

New Orleans, Louisana

Paperback ISBN