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poet

Patricia Smith

1955- , Chicago , IL , United States
Patricia Smith

Born on June 25, 1955, Patricia Smith is a poet, teacher, performance artist and author. She is the author of Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah (Coffee House Press, 2012), winner of the 2013 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, given for the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States each year, as well as Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press, 2008), which was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award; Teahouse of the Almighty (Coffee House Press, 2006), a 2005 National Poetry Series selection; Close to Death (Zoland Books, 1993); Big Towns, Big Talk (Zoland Books, 1992), which won the Carl Sandburg Literary Award; and Life According to Motown (Tía Chucha Press, 1991).

Of Smith’s award-winning book, judge Gregory Orr wrote, “With equal parts art, attitude, and heart, Patricia Smith’s Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah braids together personal narrative and a collective cultural journey. In poems propelled by voice and verve, she moves through the urbanscapes of Chicago and Detroit-- conjuring first love and Motown with equal fervor. Her poems simultaneously zip along the textured surface of these worlds and plunge to the soul-depths of the people who inhabit them. And we, her spellbound audience, follow in her sonic wake, grateful to be part of stories so alive with detail and urgent with anguish and purpose.”

Her poems have been published in many anthologies, including American Voices (McGraw-Hill, 2005), The Spoken Word Revolution (2003), and Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam (Three Rivers Press, 2001.) She is also the coauthor of a history book, Africans in America: America's Journey Through Slavery (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1998), along with a children’s book, Janna and the Kings (Lee & Low Books, 2003). She is currently working on Fixed on a Furious Star, a biography of Harriet Tubman.

She is a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize, and her work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays and Best American Mystery Stories. She has written and performed two one-woman plays, one of which was produced by Derek Walcott’s Trinidad Theater Workshop.

She is a Cave Canem faculty member, teaches in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College, and is a professor of creative writing at the City University of New York/College of Staten Island. She lives in Howell, New Jersey..


Selected Bibliography

Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah (Coffee House Press, 2012)
Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press, 2008)
Teahouse of the Almighty (Coffee House Press, 2006)
Close to Death (Zoland Books, 1993)
Big Towns, Big Talk (Zoland Books, 1992)
Life According to Motown (Tía Chucha Press, 1991)

by this poet

poem

and spy whole lifetimes on the undersides of leaves.
Jazz intrudes, stank clogging that neat procession
of lush and flutter. His eyes, siphoned and dimming,
demand that he accept ardor as it is presented, with
its tear-splashed borders and stilted lists, romance
that is only on the agenda

poem
Poseidon was easier than most.
He calls himself a god,
but he fell beneath my fingers
with more shaking than any mortal.
He wept when my robe fell from my shoulders.

I made him bend his back for me,
listened to his screams break like waves.
We defiled that temple the way it should be defiled,
screaming and
poem
My mother scraped the name Patricia Ann from the ruins
of her discarded Delta, thinking it would offer me shield
and shelter, that leering men would skulk away at the slap
of it. Her hands on the hips of Alabama, she went for flat
and functional, then siphoned each syllable of drama,
repeatedly crushing it with