Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1955, Patricia Smith is a well know figure in the literary community. Smith is a poet, an author, and a teacher. She is currently a Creative Writing professor at Sierra Nevada College. While she does teach at Sierra Nevada College, Smith is a four time individual Nation Poetry Slam champion and was featured in the documentary SlamNation. Her poetry has been featured in literary journals such as The Washington Post and Tin House. She is the author of several books. The books she has written includes Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, Blood Dazzler, and Teahouse of the Almighty. Smith has won numerous awards for her writings. She has won the Carl Sandburg Literary award, the National Poetry Series award, and many others.
Poem 1: "Siblings"
Smith’s poem “Siblings” from her book The Blood Dazzler is about hurricanes that hit the United States. She organizes each poem by the first name of each “sibling.” As she says the first name of each sibling, she gives a description of the activities they are partaking in. In the description that she gives of each, you can see the recurrence of the element. Such as in lines 3 and 12, “ Cindy just couldn’t keep her windy legs together… Maria’s thunder skirts flew high when she danced.” She is using the descriptions to give of how bad each one was. Even thought Smith is giving us a presumption that the siblings are successful , there are lines that has frustration and failures. This is clearly shown in the lines describing Franklin and Vince. Lines 6 and 9 of the poem says, “Franklin, farsighted and anxious, bumbled villages…Vince died before anyone could remember his name.” She is using each of these descriptions to show a variety of siblings.
Smith writes the poem in a way were you can almost forget this siblings are actually national disasters. She uses the poem to protect the feeling of tragedy. By making each sibling lead into each other, she shows how the odd sibling is no one wanted to talk about. She made this poem at the time when Hurricane Katrina just hit New Orleans, La. She used the poem to talk about a topic that was still fresh and no one wanted to talk about. To make people want to care, she used components of the tragedy to open up the readers eyes to others suffering. Using Katrina as the odd child, she is showing how this “sibling” is so much worse than the rest of them.
Poem 2: "Hip-Hop Gazal"
Gotta love us brown girls, munching on fat, swinging blue hips,
decked out in shells and splashes, Lawdie, bringing them woo hips.
As the jukebox teases, watch my sistas throat the heartbreak,
inhaling bassline, cracking backbone and singing thru hips.
Like something boneless, we glide silent, seeping 'tween floorboards,
wrapping around the hims, and ooh wee, clinging like glue hips.
Engines grinding, rotating, smokin', gotta pull back some.
Natural minds are lost at the mere sight of ringing true hips.
Gotta love us girls, just struttin' down Manhattan streets
killing the menfolk with a dose of that stinging view. Hips.
Crying 'bout getting old—Patricia, you need to get up off
what God gave you. Say a prayer and start slinging. Cue hips.
In Smith’s poem “Hip-Hop Ghazal”, she shows pride in being a African American woman. She is showing that women shouldn’t be afraid of their bodies and the way they move. In the fifth couplet of the poem, it says, "Gotta love us girls, just struttin’ down Manhattan streets killing the menfolk with a dose of that fringing view." She is talking about how a woman’s sexuality is an asset that can be used to make her superior. This happens by using her movements to hypnotize them.
The poem has a very powerful message. It’s showing that black women should love themselves in their entirety. They should love their curves and all. Smith is also showing how to fight back against the restrictions that society tries to put on these woman. Most societies have preconceived notions about what is acceptable for a woman’s appearance. Their sensuality in the poem is suppose to represent a new found freedom for them. She is breaking free of those notions and is making it acceptable for a woman to love every part of herself.
ENGL4302 Spoken Word Poetry & Pedagogy at LSU