Award-winning poet Patricia Smith joins Saturday night headliners

Patricia Smith, whose book Blood Dazzler chronicles the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and was named on one of NPR’s Top 5 Books of 2008, will join Mark Doty and Kim Richey as a Saturday night headliner for the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. The May 14th event will be the culmination of this year’s Massachusetts Poetry Festival.

The most successful slammer in the competition’s history

A four-time individual champion—the most successful slammer in the the National Poetry Slam’s history—Smith has been a featured poet on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and has performed three one-woman plays, one produced by Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott. She has performed around the world, including Carnegie Hall, the Poets Stage in Stockholm, Rotterdam’s Poetry International Festival, 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.


Besides Blood Dazzler, Smith has written four other books: Teahouse of the Almighty, a National Poetry Series selection and winner of the ?rst-ever Hurston/Wright Award in Poetry, Close to Death, Life According to Motown, and Big Towns, Big Talk. She is the winner of the Chatauqua Literary Journal Award in poetry and a Pushcart Prize for the poem “The Way Pilots Walk.” Smith’s work has been published in Poetry, The Paris Review, TriQuarterly, and other literary journals/anthologies.

The American Book Review says of her work:  “Reading poems like these, overflowing with life but contained by art, makes us all feel a little bit helpless. These poems are blessings that will move like white light through your veins.”


Smith’s other achievements

In addition to her poetic works, Smith is also the author of Africans in America, a companion volume to the groundbreaking PBS documentary; Publishers Weekly called the book “a monumental research effort wed with ?ne 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.” Smith also penned the children’s book Janna and the Kings, which won Lee & Low Books’ New Voices Award.

She has served as a Cave Canem faculty member, a Bruce McEver Visiting Chair in Writing at Georgia Tech University, and writer-in-residence at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. During a ceremony at Chicago State University’s Gwendolyn Brooks Center, Smith was inducted into the National Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. In 2008 she was awarded a Lannan Foundation residency in Marfa, Texas.

She is currently at work on Shoulda Been Jimmie Savannah, a memoir written in formal verse; the young adult novel The Journey of Willie J, and a Blood Dazzler collaboration with Paloma McGregor, a choreographer with Urban Bush Women.

Smith teaches in the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine and is a professor of creative writing at the City University of New York/ College of Staten Island. She has also done hundreds of writing and performance residencies in elementary middle schools and high schools.

Check out Smith reading one of her most famous poems, “Medusa:” 



  1. […] Patricia Smith: whose book Blood Dazzler chronicles the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and  was named on one of NPR’s Top 5 Books of 2008. […]

  2. […] Patricia Smith: whose book Blood Dazzler chronicles the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and  was named on one of NPR’s Top 5 Books of 2008. […]