Called “a testament to the power of words to change lives,” Patricia Smith is a renaissance artist of unmistakable signature, recognized as a force in the fields of poetry, playwriting, fiction, performance and creative collaboration.
She is the author of six critically-acknowledged volumes of poetry, including Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the 2014 Rebekah Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress, the 2013 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy American Poets and the Phillis Wheatley Award in Poetry; Blood Dazzler (a National Book Award finalist), and Teahouse of the Almighty (a National Poetry Series winner), all from Coffee House Press; Close to Death and Big Towns, Big Talk, both from Zoland Books, and Life According to Motown from Tia Chucha Press. She also edited the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir.
Her other books include Africans in America (Harcourt Brace), a companion volume to the groundbreaking four-part PBS history series, and the children’s book, Janna and the Kings, a Lee & Low Books New Voices Award winner.
Patricia’s work has appeared in Poetry (including the journal’s 100th anniversary edition), The Paris Review, Granta, Tin House, TriQuarterly, poemmemoirstory, Ecotone, Able Muse and many other journals, and in dozens of groundbreaking anthologies–including Best American Poetry, Best American Essays, Villanelles, Killer Verse–Poems of Mayhem and Murder, American Tensions–Literary Identity and the Search for Justice, and 100 Best African American Poems. Her contribution to Staten Island Noir, the story “When They Are Done With Us” won the Robert L. Fish Award from the Mystery Writers of America (for best debut story in the genre) and is upcoming in Best American Mystery Stories 2013. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, for her poems “The Way Pilots Walk” and “Laugh Your Troubles Away!” In the summer of 2012, she was awarded fellowships to both Yaddo and the McDowell Colony, where she worked in a studio once occupied by James Baldwin.
Recognized as one of the world’s most formidable performers, Patricia has read her work at venues round the world, including the Poets Stage in Stockholm, Urban Voices in South Africa, Rotterdam’s Poetry International Festival, the Aran Islands International Poetry and Prose Festival and on tour in Germany, Austria and Holland. In the U.S., she’s performed at the National Book Festival, Carnegie Hall, the Dodge Poetry Festival, Bumbershoot, the Folger Shakespeare Library and St. Mark’s Poetry Project, sharing the stage with noted writers such as Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, Rita Dove, Joyce Carol Oates, Allen Ginsberg, Walter Mosley, Gwendolyn Brooks, Billy Collins, Galway Kinnell and “Lord of the Rings” star Viggo Morgensen. She has collaborated with Boston stalwart Philip Pemberton (currently lead vocalist of Roomful of Blues) and the blues band Bop Thunderous, and as an occasional vocalist with the stellar improvisational jazz groups Paradigm Shift and Bill Cole’s Untempered Ensemble. Patricia is a four-time national individual champion of the notorious and wildly popular Poetry Slam, the most successful competitor in slam history. She was featured in the nationally-released film “Slamnation,” and appeared on the award-winning HBO series “Def Poetry Jam.”
Recordings of Patricia’s work can be found on the CD “Always in the Head” as well as in the compilations “Grand Slam,” “A Snake in the Heart” “By Someone’s Good Graces” and “Lip.” A short film of her performing the poem “Undertaker,” produced by Tied to the Tracks Films, won awards at the Sundance and San Francisco Film Festivals and earned a prestigious Cable Ace Award as part of the Lifetime Network’s first annual Women’s Film Festival. As a budding voiceover artist, she was the radio voice of the Oil of Olay Total Effects product line.
The book Blood Dazzler was the basis for a dance/theater production which sold out a week-long series of performances at New York’s Harlem Stage. The Play Company in New York City produced “Professional Suicide,” a one-woman show that got its start while Smith was writer-in-residence at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and a selection of Patricia’s poetry was also produced as a one-woman play by Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott and performed at both Boston University Playwrights Theater and the historic Trinidad Theater Workshop. Another play, based on Life According to Motown, was staged by Company One Theater in Hartford, Ct., and reviewed favorably in The New York Times.
An accomplished and sought-after instructor of poetry, performance and creative writing, Smith appears often at creative conferences and residencies, customizes workshops for all age groups and is available for intensive individual instruction. She is a Cave Canem faculty member, a professor of English at CUNY/College of Staten Island and a faculty member of the Sierra Nevada MFA program.