Adults of a certain age can remember when their teacher might demand that they memorize and — oh, horror! — recite a poem in class, and most people think of those days as gone.
However, thanks to the poetry performance movement (best known to many people through Russell Simmons’s Def Poetry Jam) the humiliation may be gone, but the oral poetry tradition is coming back, and young and old alike are discovering its joys.
One of the leaders of the poetry performance movement, Patricia Smith, lives right here in Tarrytown, and she puts many of the stars of Def Poetry Jam to shame with the quality of her writing as well as her delivery.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her and seeing her perform a poem, you’ll have a good chance to do so at The Hudson Valley Writers’ Center on Sunday, January 21 at 4:30 pm when she’ll be celebrating, with some other poets, the publication of her fourth collection of poetry, Teahouse of the Almighty.
This book has the special honor of being one of the winners of the 2005 National Poetry Series competition, a literary awards program which each year sponsors the publication of five books of poetry that might not otherwise get the attention they deserve. All five winners were selected by poets of national stature and published by a distinguished group of trade, university, and small presses. In Patricia Smith’s case the judge was Ed Sanders and the publisher is Coffee House Press.
Sanders called her work “searing, honest, well-crafted, and full of the real world transformed by Patricia Smith’s fine ear for nuance and the shaking of the soul’s duties.”
Since then, Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review and said, “Smith appears to be that rarest of creatures, a charismatic slam and performance poet whose artistry truly survives on the printed page.”
As we at the Writers’ Center have come to know Patricia over the years, from her first stunning surprise appearance at Open Mike one night years ago (and many appearances since) to her roles as both a teacher and a student in our classes, we have discovered that she is another rare creature — a generous and totally delightful friend to all she meets.
We are privileged to have her in our community and as a regular participant at the Center. Come meet her! The event is free and refreshments will be served. For further information call the Writers’s Center at (914) 332-5953 visit online at www.writerscenter.org.