“Smoke” by Ashlee Haze

A review of Ashlee Haze’s poetry collection “Smoke.”

Photo by Mr. Louis Studios via ashleehaze.com | The author, Ashlee Haze, is a well known poet.

With the spring quarter starting up, I’ve been thinking about the winter quarter and everything I’ve done so far this year. One of the most memorable parts of last quarter for me was the poetry reading hosted here at the University of Washington Tacoma. The author of “Smoke,” Ashlee Haze, hosted a wonderful reading full of emotion and difficult topics. She used her writing to share the perspective of a black woman in America. 

In “Smoke,” there are a number of craft devices and techniques that Haze used during the reading in both her work and how she read the poems aloud. She used a lot of repetition which created emphasis and rhythm in her work. She also spoke louder or with a different tone or accent when certain lines came up, which leads me to believe she might have also played around a bit with font, italics and breaks in her writing. The poems were heavy with figurative language and concrete detail and imagery that I found enhanced the poems and my understanding of them well. 

As for the actual reading itself, I had a great time and found a new author to follow. There was a rather small audience, unfortunately, but this meant it was a very intimate reading of her book. She had merchandise available so I was actually able to purchase a sweatshirt and a signed copy of her book. Haze talked to the audience, cracked jokes, explained her poems and gave backstory. I felt like I was able to get to know her very well in the hour that I was with her. Haze had so much emotion behind her voice, it wasn’t too fast or monotone. I felt her emotions throughout the reading and she was able to change that with every new poem. 

Photo by Celia Williams | An excerpt from “Smoke”

Haze talked about a lot of subjects throughout the many poems she read from “Smoke” during the reading. Her poems discussed  love, loss, empowerment, who she was and where she came from. She talked about her journey as a poet and where she was before this. Her poem “Prodigal” talks about the struggle she had decided to pursue her dreams and write for a living, which she has done for a while now, I might add. I really related to this poem, as I struggle with being logical and planning everything out, which also applied to my career. I want my job to be practical, a job society would deem “good.” Writing does not seem like it fits that requirement. “Prodigal” really spoke to me and also reassured me that it’s okay to follow your dreams. 

I had an amazing time at Ashlee Haze’s reading of “Smoke,” so much so that I bought a copy of the book. I would most definitely go to another one of her readings and recommend everyone else do the same if they have the opportunity. I learned a lot about being a poet, craft devices and even found a bit of inspiration.