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Patricia Smith Patricia Smith TUE, FEB 15, 2011, 7:30 PM Benaroya Hall \ Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall
“Reading poems like these, overflowing with life but contained by art, makes us all feel a little bit helpless. These poems are blessings that will move like white light through your veins.”  —American Book Review
Patricia Smith was born and raised in Chicago. A veteran of the slam poetry movement of that city in the 1980s, she worked to transplant slam poetry in New England and is credited for making it a national phenomenon in the United States. Her first book, Big Towns, Big Talk (1992) won her the Carl Sandburg Literary Award. She also won the 2006 National Poetry Series with Teahouse of the Almighty. Smith’s work has been published in such journals as Poetry, The Paris Review and TriQuarterly. She has performed around the world, at Carnegie Hall, the Sorbonne in Paris, and the Poet’s Stage in Stockholm. Smith has been included in many anthologies of poetry, including American Voices (2005), The Spoken Word Revolution (2003), and Bum Rush the Page (2003). She has written a history book, Africans in America (1998), and a children’s book, Janna and the Kings (2003).
Patricia Smith has been called “one of the best poets around,” by fellow poet Terrance Hayes. “Her [poetry] is full of capacious soul and formal inventiveness: the compassion and artfulness necessary to capture tragedies,” Hayes says, “Smith is herself a storm of beautiful, frightening talent. Her words will wash you or wash you away.” Of her own work, Smith says “I’ve come to think of myself primarily as a storyteller, not a performer. If anything, I work at composing those stories in the best possible way, in a way that connects human-to-human—the ‘performance’ comes to life only after.” She is the winner of the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award in Poetry, the Patterson Poetry Award and the Pushcart Prize. In 2006, she was inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. Patricia Smith is a four-time national individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, has been a featured poet on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, and has performed three one-woman plays, including one produced by Nobel Prize-winner Derek Walcott. She is a Cave Canem faculty member and has served as the Bruce McEver Chair in Writing at Georgia Tech University.
Smith’s most recent book, Blood Dazzler (2008), chronicled the toll exacted by Hurricane Katrina and was nominated for a National Book Award. She is currently at work on Shoulda Been Jimmie Savannah, a memoir written in formal verse, and the young adult novel The Journal of Willie J. Smith teaches in the Stonecoast M.F.A. program at the University of Southern Maine and is a professor of creative writing at the City University of New York. She lives in New York.
Selected Work
Blood Dazzler (2008)
Teahouse of the Almighty (2006)
Close to Death (1993)
Big Towns, Big Talk (1992)
Life According to Motown (1991)

Janna and the Kings (illustrated by Aaron Boyd, 2003)
Africans in America (with Charles Johnson, 1998)
Patricia Smith reads"Building Nicole's Mama"
Biography (
Excerpts of Smith’s poetry (
Bibliography of Smith’s work (
Patricia Smith Reading at 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival

John Updike
Literary\Arts Series, Literary legend John Updike discusses his work with fellow writer David Guterson and Seattle Art Museum Curator of American Art Patricia Junker. Photo by Libby Lewis