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Counting Descent

4.61  ·  Rating details ·  1,632 ratings  ·  243 reviews
Clint Smith's debut poetry collection, Counting Descent, is a coming of age story that seeks to complicate our conception of lineage and tradition. 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 fluidl ...more
Paperback, 75 pages
Published September 15th 2016 by Write Bloody Publishing
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Average rating 4.61  · 
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 ·  1,632 ratings  ·  243 reviews

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Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2020
A moving debut poetry collection reflecting on Blackness, coming of age, and politics, full of lyrical images and sharp turns of phrase.
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Spelling bees were a battleground
where teachers trained me
to wield language as a
tool & fist & weapon & warning
to those who would rather
make an outline out of me.

(last stanza of "How to Fight")

This is important poetry; but (more importantly) it is beautiful, accessible, intimate, explanatory poetry.

I read this as part of this year's "One Book One New Orleans" (my first time participating).
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it

In 56 poems, the realities of being a black boy in America are beautifully portrayed in this collection. Not only are the plights and queries of black boyhood portrayed, but black boy joy is an important component of these poems as well- so its pretty balanced, which I loved. This collection is personal, honest. Smith shares his loving family with us and sheds light on how he was raised. The titular poem - 'Counting Descent' is my absolute favorite. I
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
6/5 stars. Best poetry I've ever read
Liz Janet
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it
"you know how to swim boy?
i know you can float
felt you bobbing along my surface
before you even knew you could"

 “To deny the full humanity of others is to deny it within ourselves.”

"We are charred vessels
vestiges of woods and wonder
anchors tethered to our bows.
It is the irony of a ship burning
at sea, surrounded by
the very thing that could
save us."

Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, coming-of-age
This morning I intended to simply peruse this book of poems on my TBR list, but once I started I couldn't stop reading. Clint Smith writes deceptively emotional, startlingly accessible poems, poems so good I wanted to share them almost immediately. I restrained myself for now—wanting more, I guess, to keep reading further in the book—but these poems are definitely going to find a place in my classroom.

The poems about his boyhood as a Black American are diverse will resonate with young people, b
Rose Peterson
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"I have always used words / to try and convince the world / that I am worth something."
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you’re not already following @allisonreadsdc then you are missing out on some fabulous recommendations that will challenge you to think critically and embrace diversity.

Counting Descent by Clint Smith is a modern poetry collection that spans the author’s childhood and experience growing up in New Orleans, to his time as an adult at Harvard University. It also includes social and historical commentary, and I was particularly moved by For Charles, a poem dedicated to Charles Deslondes who in 18
Jul 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the best collection of poetry I've read in the last few years. Clint Smith's poems vary by subject matter, intensity, style -- but they're all powerful and exquisitely crafted.
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: brain-melt
I have never before been terrified of a book ending from it's very beginning, but here we are

thank you Jen

I will now reread, underline, circle, copy, and put on my wall
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Smith’s is a political poetry and he embraces the label. Indeed, his book’s epigram by Ralph Ellison is “I recognize no dichotomy between art and protest.” Two poems are titled: “James Baldwin Speaks to the Protest Novel” and “The Protest Novel Responds to James Baldwin”. Many of the poems do indeed deal with political or social injustice. Others deal with everyday issues of love, family, home, and art. The title poem deals with all of that because, after all, they intersect. It begins
“My grand
Bogdan Minuț
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: always-rereading
There are black poems and themes that always cause a heartrending cascade of feelings. Those inside Counting Descent count as perfect examples. What's the difference between a good poet and an exceptional poet? One answer, in my opinion, the latter disguises the theme of his writing so it traverses the limited borders of genre. Clint Smith and his poems do not traverse. They break.

Sure poems like Full-Court Press, For Charles, and the title poem smack you down and leave you a mess. Yet it's poem
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
“I don't remember the last time police
sirens didn't feel like gasping for air.
I don't remember what it means not
to be considered something meant
to flounder, to flap against
the surface while others watch you
until the flailing.......stops.”

“When the sixth cab passes you,
imagine yourself a puddle
existing as both transparency
& filth. Something that won't be there
by the afternoon.”

“...We've got to protest
on these pages. This ink be our picket line.
How can we write about
the soil and not the blood?
Justen Davila
Apr 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Clint is absolutely fascinating! Counting Descent deals with some very tough topics that are addressed in a raw, For All To See fashion and I love that. It's honest and in todays world it forces a conversation that we must all participate in.
I enjoyed this, especially “James Baldwin Speaks to the Protest Novel” and “The Protest Novel Responds to James Baldwin”.

This feels like early writing for this man’s career. I’ll be interested to follow his development.
Anna W.
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I must preface my review with a bit on my background: I live in the midwest, Iowa to be precise. I teach high school between two major highways and copious fields of corn and soybeans. To be clear: There's a lot of white people here and not much diversity.

However, last year I came across Clint Smith while researching for class materials. In class, we watched his TED talk video from 2014 titled "The Danger of Silence" to investigate language devices in English I and speaking strategies in Advanc
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: black-lit, poetry
It's been a very long time since I've been able to connect with a collection of poems that I felt like spoke to me and my existence. These poems are imbued with Blackness. But, more than that, they explore the complexity and humanity of Black folk.

There were moments when my emotions ran high, particularly on the title poem "Counting Descent", the first poem of the collection "Something You Should Know", and "Playground Elegy." There were times when the lightness and nostalgia inspired, made me
Pat Gibson
What a wonderful expression of what it means to be a young black man in the United States today! This should be required reading in high school English classes. His words are carefully chosen and his images so well drawn. He will become on of our great American poets. I bought copies for my daughter to use in her Reading Resource class and gifted a young graduate student in my department with my copy. Now I have to get another one. I will watch for his next book. He is a treasure.
Carla Sofia Sofia
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Easily one of my favorite poetry books that I read in 2019. I'm so glad this gem was available on audio via my library. Loved Smith's reading of the poems, loved how he tied the collection together with the poems addressed to the Black Boy by different elements/locations, loved the love poems so tender they hurt, in a good way, the way good poems can break your heart. Such a thoughtful look at racism, childhood, and family bonds. This is a book I will definitely reread.
Jenny Bruesewitz
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I know I’m late to the party with this book, but holy cow. It may be the first complete collection of poetry I’ve read. My students love it just as much. #readlivingpoets
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I knew of Clint Smith the scholar who was also a poet and was lucky enough to see a talk he gave about reconsidering history. Smith wove his poetry through his lecture and I was hooked, moved beyond words. I picked up his book immediately and have read it twice in the past few days. I can’t wait to use this work in my American literature class.
Aug 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was Brilliant ! My favourite was 'Playground Elegy'... & if I had to convince someone to read this book, this is the poem I'd ask them to read. ...more
Mira Prater
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Holy crap. This book of poetry is amazing. It’s like a sucker punch to the face.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Powerful, lyrical, contemporary, challenging. I’m teaching this.
C. Varn
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Clint Smith's work is deceptively accessible: equal parts slam poetry and fairly conventional narrative poems with spots of prose and experimental poetry added in for a little diversity and flavor. I normally distrust popular performance poetry but Smith craftsman in what amounts to two very distinct genres. Furthermore, Smith writes about being a black boy in New Orleans in ways that are recognizable to me even though I am not black--it feels like getting an insider view on elements of Southern ...more
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Clint Smith... man oh man. This book is exactly the kind of poetry that breaks your heart and puts it back together again in the same poem. It was such a roller coaster of the most beautiful images and the most devastating realities. I will never know what it’s like to be a black man in America, but Smith’s poems have taught me many things & will stay with me. Plus, the romance poems! ...more
Jan 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book! His poems were intellectual, yet relatable and relevant. Their themes remain with you after you shut the book. And, his writing is purposeful and concise, at times beautiful and always thought provoking.
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Favorite quote:

“It should come as no surprise.
I have always used words
to try and convince the world
that I am worth something.”
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. COUNTING DESCENT is a window into the life of a black boy growing up in contemporary America. His family is present in many of the poems, his father pulling him away from a nighttime game of Super Soakers with white classmates, his mother dancing with a spatula in hand or braiding his sister's hair. History is explored, as is Smith's hometown of New Orleans.

This accessible and personal volume is uneven but full of feeling and beautiful passages.. There are some remarkable poems in her
Amy Layton
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poems
What an incredible compilation of poetry!  Nearly ever poem took my breath away, though I must admit that "How to Make an Empty Cardboard Box Disappear in 10 Steps" and "what the ocean said to the black boy" were my two favorites.  Each poem was a reminder to me of why I'm fighting for what I believe in and how I can be a better, more understanding, and more compassionate fighter and friend.  All these poems were just so poignant and were so well thought out and written to the point where every ...more
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