Review: South Flight by Jasmine Elizabeth Smith 

Jasmine Elizabeth Smith’s opening poem, “Blacktown Blues of Oklahoma” ends:

I be first to admit this ain’t no gospel,
but might my song, simple
it may be, choir droves up yard,
quicken Oklahoman air prairie.
I pray my eyes wring witness,
twenty-one freshwater routes
against forgetting this home
I call South.

What follows is a collection deeply invested in Oklahoma as The South. From attention to foodways and land to blues and the undead, these poems trade on staple Southern Literature tropes and I am here for it. Set around the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, South Flight’s staked claim for Oklahoma as a Southern space not only serves as a glaring reminder of its Jim Crow apartheid but also allows Smith to complicate how we think of this period and this space.

Reading like a blending of Toni Morrison’s lush prose with Langston Hughes’s jazz poems, this collection bears witness to the day-to-day heartaches and fortitude of those living under such oppression.

Published in 2022 as the winner of The Georgia Poetry Prize, South Flight is available from UGA Press for $19.95.

Read the full review at Up the Staircase Quarterly.