Illinois Authors

The Illinois Center for the Book banner

Patricia Smith

Born: 1955 in Chicago, Illinois
Pen Name: None

Connection to Illinois: Smith was born and raised in Chicago. She attended Southern Illinois University and Northwestern University.

Biography: Patricia Smith is an author, journalist and poet. She is four-time national individual champion of the notorious and wildly popular National Poetry Slam. A professor for the City University of New York and a Cave Canem faculty member, she lives in New Jersey.

  • "Teahouse of the Almighty"
  • -- National Poetry Series Selection, 2005
  • -- Paterson Poetry Prize, 2007
  • -- Best poetry book, 2006
  • "Janna and the Kings"
  • -- Lee & Low Books New Voices Award
  • "The Way Pilots Walk" (poem)
  • -- Pushcart Prize
  • "Big Towns, Big Talk"
  • -- Carl Sandburg Literary Award
  • -- Finalist, Pulitzer Prize, 1998
  • "Incendiary Art"
  • -- Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, 2018
  • -- NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in the Poetry
  • -- Finalist, Neustadt International Prize for Literature
  • -- Finalist, Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 2018
  • -- Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 2017
  • -- BCALA Best Poetry Award, 2018
  • -- Abel Meeropol Award for Social Justice
  • -- Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, 2021
  • "Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah"
  • -- Lenore Marshall Prize, Academy of American Poets
  • -- Wheatley Book Award in Poetry, 2013
  • -- Finalist, William Carlos Williams Award, 2013
  • -- Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, 2014
  • "Blood Dazzler"
  • -- Nominated, National Book Award
  • "Body of Work"
  • -- International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent, 2006
  • -- Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, Poetry Foundation, 2021
  • -- Four-time individual champion, National Poetry Slam
  • -- Women in Communications Award
  • -- Sigma Delta Chi Award
  • -- United Press International Award

Primary Literary Genre(s): Fiction; Poetry

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers; Children


Selected Titles

Big towns, big talk /
ISBN: 0944072240 OCLC: 25915357

Zoland Books, Hanover, NH : ©1992.

Blood dazzler :
ISBN: 156689218X OCLC: 213480221

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.

Close to death /
ISBN: 0944072356 OCLC: 28257280

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.

Incendiary art :
ISBN: 0810134330 OCLC: 948340216

"One of the most magnetic and esteemed poets in today's literary landscape, Patricia Smith fearlessly confronts the tyranny against the black male body and the tenacious grief of mothers in her compelling new collection, Incendiary Art. She writes an exhaustive lament for mothers of the "dark magicians," and revisits the devastating murder of Emmett Till. These dynamic sequences serve as a backdrop for present-day racial calamities and calls for resistance. Smith embraces elaborate and eloquent language - "her gorgeous fallen son a horrid hidden / rot. Her tiny hand starts crushing roses - one by one / by one she wrecks the casket's spray. It's how she / mourns - a mother, still, despite the roar of thorns"--As she sharpens her unerring focus on incidents of national mayhem and mourning. Smith envisions, reenvisions, and ultimately reinvents the role of witness with an incendiary fusion of forms, including prose poems, ghazals, sestinas, and sonnets. With poems impossible to turn away from, one of America's most electrifying writers reveals what is frightening, and what is revelatory, about history"

Janna and the kings
ISBN: 9781620142530 OCLC: 49583388

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.

Life according to Motown /
ISBN: 0962428728 OCLC: 23082856

Tía Chucha Press ; Chicago : ©1991.

Shoulda been Jimi Savannah :
ISBN: 1566892996 OCLC: 744560335

"In her newest collection, Patricia Smith explores the second wave of the Great Migration. Shifting from spoken word to free verse to traditional forms, she reveals 'that soul beneath the vinyl'."

Teahouse of the almighty :
ISBN: 1566891930 OCLC: 65978665

Coffee House Press, Minneapolis : ©2006.

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