Patricia Smith

Beowulf Sheehan

Patricia Smith

Past Event: Tuesday, February 15, 2011

At Benaroya Hall — Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall

Poetry Icon


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 PoetryThe 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 (
Patricia Smith’s homepage
Patricia Smith Reading at 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall. The Recital Hall is located on the upper level of Benaroya Hall, up the stairs to the left side of the Box Office. Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue)
    Take the Seneca Street exit and move into the left lane. Turn left onto First Avenue and proceed one block. Take the next right (at the Hammering Man sculpture) onto University Street. Continue up the hill two blocks to Third Avenue. Turn left onto Third Avenue. Continue to the next block and turn left onto Union Street. Make the next left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Southbound Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue)
    Take the Denny Way/Downtown exit. Keep right and cross over Denny Way onto Wall Street. Proceed approximately five blocks and turn left onto Second Avenue. Continue south on Second Avenue approximately eight blocks. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)

Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. The event rate is $16.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth Avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second Avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


SAL is for everyone. We want all audience members to be able to experience our lectures and readings regardless of accessibility concerns. Accessibility services at our venues are provided at no cost to ticket holders. If you find you need to sit closer to the stage to accommodate your needs but find the cost of a Patron ticket prohibitive, then please contact us—we will seat you where you need to be, regardless of cost.

Open Captioning occurs at every event that takes place at Benaroya Hall. It is also always available upon request for all events in our other halls, with a two-week minimum notice. To make a request for Open Captioning services, please contact us at or 206.621.2230×10.

Assisted Listening Devices, including Hearing Loop Assisted Listening Systems, are available at all of our venues, with the exception of Broadway Performance Hall. If you would like more information, please contact us at or 206.621.2230×10.

ASL-Interpretated Events are always available upon request, with a two-week minimum notice. To make a request for ASL interpretation, please contact us at or 206.621.2230×10.

Wheelchair Accessible Ticketing is available in all sections at our venues, and and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. If you would like more information, please contact us at or 206.621.2230×10.

For any further questions or requests, or to offer Seattle Arts & Lectures feedback on how we can be more accessible and inclusive, please reach out to our Patron Services Manager at or 206.621.2230×10.