“We have to figure out, not only some way to write the story, but how to draw people to the story and keep them in it,” says poet and spoken word artist Patricia Smith of the work of poets in the fourth season premier of Black Market Reads – her most recent poetry collection, Incendiary Art, did just that for us (and more!)
Lissa sat down with Smith, while she was in town for a reading at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis for an in-depth conversation about writing poetry that looks at familiar stories in unfamiliar ways, the necessity of grappling with Black death when we talk about Black life, why this book felt like the right time to write about her father’s death, and approaching education as a collaboration.
On why she writes, and why she marks her poems as moments in her life: “There’s nothing else that makes me want to keep living more than the possibility of documenting these things, and knowing that, hopefully, something will be left behind to say, ‘I was here, this is what happened, and maybe this can help you in what’s happening to you’.”
In the Season Four Premier Lissa speaks with award-winning poet and spoken word artist Patricia Smith. Smith is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently Incendiary Art which was awarded the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, Los Angeles Times Book Prize, NAACP image award, and was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize.
Smith is the author of eight books of poetry. Her most recent, Incendiary Art (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2017) was awarded the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, Los Angeles Times Book Prize, NAACP image award, and was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize. She is a professor of English at the College of Staten Island and in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College, and serves as a Cave Canem Faculty member.
For more information about Smith’s work and to purchase her books, visit her website (http://www.wordwoman.ws/)
Readings from Incendiary Art
(22:00) ‘XXXL’ – p. 47
(43:00 & 49:00) Excerpts from ‘Sagas of the Accidental Saint’ – p. 73
Special thanks to the English Department at The University of Minnesota for facilitating the interview, and providing a space for recording.
Go Deeper: Additional Materials
Read: Learn more about the poet Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Black author to win the Pulitzer Prize, whose work Patrica Smith recognizes as having a profound and lasting impact on her own
Gwendolyn Brooks is one of the most highly regarded, influential, and widely read poets of 20th-century American poetry. She was a much-honored poet, even in her lifetime, with the distinction of being the first Black author to win the Pulitzer Prize.
Read: ‘I Go Back to May 1937’ by Sharon Olds on the poetry foundation website.