Patricia Smith at Keystone

I am eager and happy to announce that Keystone College is hosting Patricia Smith on Tuesday, April 3 from 7-9 p.m. at Evans Hall. This event is free and open to the public, and if you are looking for something to do to celebrate National Poetry Month in April, I recommend seeing Smith.  She is the author of five books of poetry, and her work has appeared in Poetry, TriQuarterlyThe Paris Review, and other journals.  She is also a four-time individual champion on the National Poetry Slam, and she has been featured a few times on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam.

What I enjoy about Smith’s work is is the way that she has used music over the years to address various social issues, especially race. “What I Would Have Told Oprah if She Asked,” a poem about Michael Jackson’s insecurities and decision to whiten his skin, does this especially well.  Her poems are loaded with references to jazz, blues, Motown, rock ‘n roll, and hip-hop.

My favorite book by Smith is Blood Dazzler, a finalist for the National Book Award in 2008. It features poems solely about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. That book truly shows the range of voice and persona Smith is able to capture in her work. It includes poems from the point of view of George Bush, a dog, the hurricane, and various residents of New Orleans, rich and poor, black and white.

I’ve often taught Smith’s work when discussing voice/persona in creative writing classes, and I’m happy some of my students will get to see her live. Here is a video of Smith performing the poem “Medusa.” You can also find a lot of her work online if you Google her name of visit the Poetry Foundation’s website here.

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