Patricia Smith


Patricia Smith has been called “a testament to the power of words to change lives.” She is the author of seven books of poetry, including Incendiary Art (2017), winner of an NAACP Image Award and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah (2012), which won the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler (2008), a chronicle of the human and environmental cost of Hurricane Katrina which was nominated for a National Book Award; and Teahouse of the Almighty, a 2005 National Poetry Series selection published by Coffee House Press. Smith collaborated with the photographer Michael Abramson on the book Gotta Go Gotta Flow: Life, Love, and Lust on Chicago’s South Side From the Seventies (2015). Her work has appeared in Poetry magazine, the Paris Review, the New York Times, TriQuarterly, Tin House, the Washington Post, and in both Best American Poetry and Best American Essays. Source  


Excerpt from Motown Crown

The Temps, all swerve and pivot, conjured schemes

that had us skipping school, made us forget

how mamas schooled us hard against the threat

of five-part harmony and sharkskin seams.

We spent our schooldays balanced on the beams

of moon we wished upon, the needled jetblack

45s that spun and hadn’t yet

become the dizzy spinning of our dreams.

Sugar Pie, Honey Bun, oh you

loved our nappy hair and rusty knees.

Marvin Gaye slowed down while we gave chase

and then he was our smokin’ fine taboo.

We hungered for the anguished screech of Please

inside our chests—relentless, booming bass.


Inside our chests, relentless booming bass

softened to the turn of Smokey’s key.

His languid, liquid, luscious, aching plea

for bodies we didn’t have yet made a case

for lying to ourselves. He could erase

our bowlegs, raging pimples, we could see

his croon inside our clothes, his pedigree

of milky flawless skin. Oh, we’d replace

our daddies with his fine and lanky frame,

I did you wrong, my heart went out to play

he serenaded, filling up the space

that separated Smoke from certain flame.

We couldn’t see the drug of him—OK,

silk where his throat should be. He growled such grace.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Memory & The Past

Poetic Form

Pop Culture

Literary Devices:


an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference


correspondence of sound between words or the endings of words, especially when these are used at the ends of lines of poetry

Sensory Detail

words used to invoke the five senses (vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell)


A poem with fourteen lines that traditionally uses a fixed rhyme scheme and meter.