Art Beat: From The Wreckage | WMUK

Art Beat: From The Wreckage

Apr 8, 2021

Poet Patricia Smith
Credit Beowulf Sheehan

Patricia Smith is a critically acclaimed poet. She’s a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, making her the most successful poet in the competition’s history.


Her most recent collection is Incendiary Art (TriQuarterly, 2017). It received the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the 2018 NAACP Image Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It is also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Smith is also the author of Africans in America, the companion book to the award-winning PBS television series.

Smith will be one of the featured poets at the 2021 Kalamazoo Poetry Festival on April 17. This year’s festival, which will be entirely online, has the theme of “From the Wreckage.”

Credit TriQuarterly/Northwestern University Press

“My last book, Incendiary Art, everyone told me beforehand, was a little bit too rough and there weren’t any moments of light in it,” Smith says. “I think we allow ourselves too many moments of light. I wanted to write a book that did not allow people to turn away from it. There are a lot of names in the book that people didn’t recognize. For instance, if I say Trevon Martin or Michael Brown, you recognize those names. But I wanted people to know that these types of things are happening in the American African community like a drumbeat. Because there isn’t video, that doesn’t mean it’s not there.”

In her most recent book, Smith chronicles society’s abuse of the Black male body, including a series about Emmet Till, a 14-year-old Black boy lynched because of a false claim against him.

“Until we can write and read about what accountability means, we’re not going to go forward in any way, shape or form,” Smith says. “There’s a lot of responsibility that goes with (the publication of a book). The awards - that just means I have a bigger platform.”

Smith is a Distinguished Professor at City University of New York and an instructor in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada University, and in the Vermont College of Fine Arts Post-Graduate Residency Program.

Along with poet Danez Smith, Smith will participate in a livestream Craft Talk moderated by Denise Miller to talk about their writing process as part of the 2021 Kalamazoo Poetry Festival. The two poets will read from their poetry at 6 p.m., April 17. Registration is required.

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