Patricia Smith moved to Boston in 1991 after participating in the burgeoning days of the poetry slam in its native Chicago and competing in the inaugural National Poetry Slam, where she won the first of four individual championships. She is credited with co-founding the Boston Poetry Slam at the Bookseller Cafe, just before the whole shazam moved to the Cantab Lounge during the 1992 National Slam hosted by Boston. Host, local slam champion, and knockout writer, Patricia left Boston in 1998, but she has returned regularly to feature at the show. She was an honored guest at the 2011 National Poetry Slam.
Patricia is the author of six books of poetry, including Blood Dazzler, a book of poems chronicling the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, which was a 2008 National Book Award finalist, winner of the 2009 Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement, and one of NPR’s and the Library Journal’s Top Books of 2008; and Teahouse of the Almighty, a National Poetry Series selection, winner of the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award and the 2007 Paterson Poetry Prize. Teahouse was also voted the Best Poetry Book of 2006 on About.com. Her sixth book, Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, will be released in April 2012.
Patricia was published in the 2011 editions of both Best American Poetry and Best American Essays. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, TriQuarterly, Tin House, and many other journals, and anthologies including The 100 Best African-American Poems, The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature, the Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry, and American Tensions: Literary Identity and the Search for Justice. Her poem “The Way Pilots Walk” was awarded a 2008 Pushcart Prize. She is a member of the National Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent, located at the Gwendolyn Brooks Center of Chicago State University.
She is the author of the children’s book Janna and the Kings, which won a Lee & Low Books New Voices Award, and penned the groundbreaking history Africans in America, a chronicle of slavery in this country and the companion volume to the groundbreaking four-part PBS series. Publishers Weekly called Africans “a monumental research effort wed with fine writing… ultimately shaped by Smith’s beautiful narrative,” and Michelle Cliff of the San Jose Mercury News said, “With its vivid language and historical integrity, Africans in America is a major contribution to this country’s written history.”
Patricia has performed around the world, including Carnegie Hall, the Poets Stage in Stockholm, Rotterdam’s Poetry International, the Aran Islands International Poetry and Prose Festival, the Bahia Festival, the Schomburg Center, the Sorbonne in Paris and on tour in Germany, Austria and Holland. She has shared the stage with Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, Allen Ginsburg, Walter Mosley, Joyce Carol Oates, Gwendolyn Brooks and Galway Kinnell. She performed the original poem “Awakening” at the 1991 inauguration of former Mayor Richard Daley in Chicago. Aside from being the most successful competitor in slam history, she was also featured in the nationally-released film “Slamnation,” and appeared on the award-winning HBO series “Def Poetry Jam.”
Currently, she is editor of the crime-fiction anthology Staten Island Noir and the erotic poetry anthology 100 Words, and co-editor, with Tyehimba Jess, of 21st Century Howlers, a collection of contemporary jazz poetry. She works as a professor at the City University of New York/College of Staten Island and teaches for Cave Canem and in the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine and MFA program of Sierra Nevada College. She can be reached through her personal website.