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November 5, 2011

Slam Champion and National Book Award Finalist Patricia Smith to Read at Smith College

patricia smithNORTHAMPTON, Mass.— Smith College will present a reading by four-time National Slam Champion and National Book Award Finalist Patricia Smith at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, in Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall. The reading is free and open to the public.

A four-time individual champion on the National Poetry Slam and featured poet on HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam,” Smith found her voice at the heart of the Chicago slam scene that took off in the 1980s. Born and raised in Chicago in 1955 and widely known as a “persona” poet, Smith has said that she began to writing in others’ voices to combat the isolation and loneliness of being the only child of over-protective parents. Her personae—including Medusa, Little Richard, Emmett Till, a Skinhead and victims of Hurricane Katrina—cross racial, historical and class boundaries and often confront adversity and hardship; they give voice to unspoken stories and hidden truths. She has said she “made a commitment that there was nothing I wouldn’t write about.”

Poet, teacher and performance artist, “Smith is a storm of beautiful, frightening talent,” observed the poet Terrance Hayes. She has brought her work to venues across the globe, including the Poets Stage in Stockholm, Rotterdam’s Poetry International Festival and the Aran Islands International Poetry and Prose Festival. While performance is intrinsic to her work, she seamlessly reconciles the page with the stage, giving vitality and urgency to both the written and the spoken word. As poet Kurt Heintz reflected, Smith “proved that slam could exceed its saloon origins and engage the literate public.”

The author of five books of poetry, most recently “Blood Dazzler,” a 2008 National Book Award Finalist, Smith’s other honors include a National Poetry Series selection for “Teahouse of the Almighty” and a Carl Sandburg Literary Award for “Big Towns, Big Talk.” She has written and performed two one-woman plays, one of which was produced by Derek Walcott’s Trinidad Theater Workshop, and is currently working on a verse memoir and a young adult novel. A proud Cave Canem faculty member, Smith also teaches English at CUNY/College of Staten Island, and serves on the faculty of the Stonecoast Low-Residency MFA program at the University of Southern Maine.

Smith’s reading will be followed by a book sale and signing. For further information, contact Jennifer Blackburn at the Smith College Poetry Center (413) 585-4891.

For disability access information or to request accommodations, call (413) 585-2407. To request a sign language interpreter specifically, call (413) 585-2071 (voice or TTY) or e-mail All requests must be made at least 10 days prior to the event.

Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Marti Hobbes
News Assistant
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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