Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Patricia Smith  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult;

Born: 1955 in Chicago, Illinois

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Illinois Connection

Patricia Smith was born and raised in Chicago. Attended Southern Illinois University and Northwestern University.

Biographical and Professional Information

Smith is a journalist, poet, playwright, and performer. She is four-time national individual champion of the notorious and wildly popular National Poetry Slam, an energized competition where poets are judged on the content and performance of their work. No one else has won the title more than twice. Recognized as one of the world’s most formidable performers, she was featured in the nationally-released film ''Slamnation'', and appeared on the award-winning HBO series ''Def Poetry Jam''. Smith has read her work at venues round the world, including the Poets Stage in Stockholm, 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 Carnegie Hall, Bumbershoot, the inaugural Palm Beach Poetry Festival, 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 also collaborated with Urban Bush Women choreographer Paloma McGregor, Philip Pemberton and the blues band Bop Thunderous, and has performed as an occasional vocalist with the stellar improvisational jazz group, Bill Cole’s Untempered Ensemble.A selection of Smith’s poetry was 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.Recordings of Patricia Smith’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 Smith 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.An accomplished and sought-after instructor of poetry, performance and creative writing, Smith is proud to be a Cave Canem faculty member, as well as a former Bruce McEver Chair in Writing at Georgia Tech University. Currently she does workshops and residencies customized for all age groups.Among other books, Smith has authored: ''Africans in America'', a companion volume to the groundbreaking four-part PBS history series and ''Janna and the Kings'', her first children’s book which was a New Voices Award winner. In October of 2006, during the Gwendolyn Brooks Creative Writing Conference at Chicago State University, Patricia was inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. In 2008, she was nominated for the 2008 National Book Awards in poetry for her collection ''Blood Dazzler''.

Published Works

  • Life According to Motown, Tia Chucha, 1991
  • Close to Death; Poems, Zoland Books, 1998
  • Africans in America, Harvest Books, 1999
  • Big Towns, Big Talk, Zoland Books, 2002
  • Janna and The Kings, Zoland Books, 2003
  • Teahouse of The Almighty, Coffee House Press, 2006
  • Blood Dazzler'', Coffee House Press, 2008

Selected Titles At Your Library

Life according to Motown /
ISBN: 0962428728. OCLC Number:

Tía Chucha Press ;. Chicago :. ©1991.

Close to death /
ISBN: 0944072356. OCLC Number:

Zoland Books,. Cambridge, Mass. :. 1993.

Poems that amplify the voices and souls of black men at various stages of their lives, men who always feel as if they are "C2D," close to death.

Africans in America :
ISBN: 0156008548. OCLC Number:

Harcourt Brace,. San Diego :. 1999.

A narrative history of America, from the 1607 landing in Jamestown to the brink of the Civil War, Africans in America tells the shared history of Africans and Europeans as seen through the lens of slavery. It is told from the point of view of the Africans who arrived in shackles and endured the terrible dichotomy of this new land founded on the ideal of liberty but dedicated to the perpetuation of slavery. Meticulously researched, this book weaves together the experiences of the colonists, slaves, free and fugitive blacks, and abolitionists to present an original document.

Big towns, big talk /
ISBN: 0944072240. OCLC Number:

Zoland Books,. Hanover, NH :. ©1992.

Janna and the kings /
ISBN: 1584300884. OCLC Number:

. .

Janna loves the Saturday visits that she and her grandfather make to the local barbershop where she becomes a princess, but after he dies, Janna feels as though her world has changed.

Teahouse of the almighty :
ISBN: 1566891930. OCLC Number:

Coffee House Press,. Minneapolis :. ©2006.

A collection of poems by Patricia Smith that explore the emotions that shape human life.

Blood dazzler :
ISBN: 156689218X. OCLC Number:

Coffee House Press,. Minneapolis :. ©2008.

In minute-by-minute detail, Patricia Smith tracks Hurricane Katrina as it transforms into a full-blown mistress of destruction. From August 23, 2005, the day Tropical Depression Twelve developed, through August 28 when it became a Category Five storm with its "scarlet glare fixed on the trembling crescent," to the heartbreaking aftermath, these poems evoke the horror that unfolded in New Orleans as America watched it on television. Assuming the voices of flailing politicians, the dying, their survivors, and the voice of the hurricane itself, Smith follows the woefully inadequate relief effort and stands witness to families held captive on rooftops and in the Superdome. She gives voice to the thirty-four nursing home residents who drowned in St. Bernard Parish and recalls the day after their deaths when George W. Bush accompanied country singer Mark Willis on guitar: The cowboy grins through the terrible din, *** And in the Ninth, a choking woman wails Look like this country done left us for dead. An unforgettable reminder that poetry can still be "news that stays news," Blood Dazzler is a necessary step toward national healing.


Teahouse of the Almighty

- 2005 National Poetry Series Selection, winner of the 2007 Paterson Poetry Prize, voted the best poetry book of 2006

Janna and the Kings

- winner of the Lee & Low Books New Voices Award

The Way Pilots Walk


- Pushcart Prize winner

Big Towns, Big Talk

- Carl Sandburg Literary Award Pulitzer Prize finalist, 1998 inducted into International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent, 2006 Four-time individual champion, National Poetry Slam. Recipient of awards from Women in Communications, Sigma Delta Chi, and United Press International.

Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)

, contact agent. Alison Granucci Blue Flower Arts PO Box 1361 Millbrook, New York 12545 Email Phone 845 677 8559 Fax 845.677.6446