Patricia Smith has enjoyed a remarkable career as a writer and performance poet almost from the start. She is often regarded as one of the first anthemic voices for the slam poetry movement. At the beginning, she captured more slam championships than anyone else. She has since taken her role as a writer in the consciousness of her country and the world.
She is the author of Life According to Motown (1991, Tia Chucha Press), Big Towns, Big Talk (1992, Zoland Books), and Close to Death (1993, Zoland Books). These three books, coming as they did when she was achieving national recognition for her slam championships, also set a counterpoint to the slam aesthetic of the day. Some early slammers sought to put performance first, and eschewed publishing in the process. But Smith's books not only fared well, they complemented her performance. Critics in her hometown of Chicago and (then) adopted hometown of Boston remarked that Smith had a rare skill of composing language that excelled as poetry both on- and off-page.
Other recent books by Smith include Teahouse of the Almighty (2005, Coffee House Press) which was a National Poetry Series winner, Blood Dazzler (2008, Coffee House Press), and Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah (2012, Coffee House Press). The last book is a National Book Award Finalist, debuted at the 2012 AWP Conference in Chicago. Smith is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions. Complementing a growing movement among other writers since 2010, she is a teaching artist. She regularly presents workshops where she tours. She is on the faculty of Cave Canem and CUNY/Staten Island.
Her website is wordwoman.ws, with many details on her writing, publishing, and other accomplishments. Audio recordings of her performance poetry are also available here on the e-poets website, in her Book of Voices feature.
- Kurt Heintz, 2012