Patricia Smith’s most recent book, Incendiary Art (TriQuarterly, 2017), won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the NAACP Image Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. These poems themselves are incendiary in their fierce and fiery language, their dazzling transformations of poetic form, and their fearless probing of some of the most explosive tragedies of recent American history, including the Tulsa race massacre and the murder of Emmett Till. In his Harvard Review essay of the collection, John S. O’Connor wrote, “In an age of inconvenient ‘truths’ and alternative facts, the fierce empathy and blazing truth of Incendiary Art has never been more necessary. These poems demand a reckoning.”

This is Patricia Smith’s first appearance at the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. The author of eight poetry collections and other books of history and children’s writing, and a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, she is a professor at the College of Staten Island and also teaches in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College, at the VONA residency, and the Vermont College of Fine Arts Post-Graduate Residency Program. 

Read a poem by Patricia Smith: The ghazal “And He Stays Dead” was selected by Terrance Hayes for The New York Times Magazine.

Essential Viewing: “I try on all the shoes of the story”: Enjoy “In the Poetry Library with Patricia Smith,” from Claremont Graduate University (on the occasion of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Award). You can also search online for longer videos of Patricia’s readings and discussions.