A four-time individual champion on the National Poetry Slam and featured poet on HBO's Def Poetry Jam, Patricia Smith found her voice at the heart of the Chicago slam poetry scene that took off in the 1980s. Born and raised in Chicago in 1955 and widely known as a persona poet,
Smith has said that she began to writing in others' voices to combat the isolation and loneliness of being the only child of over-protective parents. Her personae—including Medusa, Little Richard, Emmett Till, a Skinhead, and victims of Hurricane Katrina—cross racial, historical, and class boundaries, and often confronting adversity and hardship; they give voice to unspoken stories and hidden truths. She has said she "made a commitment that there was nothing I
wouldn't write about."

Poet, teacher, and performance artist, "Smith is herself a storm of beautiful, frightening talent," observed Terrance Hayes. She has brought her poems to venues across the globe, including the Poets Stage in Stockholm, Rotterdam's Poetry International Festival, and the Aran Islands
International Poetry and Prose Festival. While performance is intrinsic to her work, she seamlessly reconciles the page with the stage, giving vitality and urgency to both the written and the spoken. As Kurt Heintz reflected, Smith "proved that slam could exceed its saloon origins
and engage the literate public."

The author of five books of poetry, most recently Blood Dazzler, a 2008 National Book Award Finalist, Smith's other honors include a National Poetry Series selection for Teahouse of the Almighty was a National Poetry Series selection and a Carl Sandburg Literary Award for Big Towns, Big Talk. She has written and performed two one-woman plays, one of which was produced by Derek Walcott's Trinidad Theater Workshop, and is currently working on a verse memoir and a young adult novel. A proud Cave Canem faculty member, Smith also teaches English at CUNY/College of Staten Island, and serves on the faculty of the Stonecoast Low- Residency MFA program at the University of Southern Maine.

Poems by Patricia Smith


Man on the TV Say

What Was the First Sound




Poetry Center Reading:

    Fall 2011