”Poetry has the power to move us from a place inside our heads, to a safer place,” Patricia Smith said Thursday, Sept. 16 while performing in the Student Lounge of the Winter Park Campus.
Smith is the author of Blood Dazzler, her fifth book and most recently published book of poetry. Last week, she stood in front of a group of more than 80 students, all eyes glued on her, as she read a few of her pieces. Some of them were straight from her book, others were recited from beneath closed eyelids.
Freshman Jillian Harris, said “If I closed my eyes, I could’ve seen the faces of the people she was reading about. It’s like she was channeling another person through her voice.”
During Smith’s performance of the poem, “34,” her voice fluctuated while she re-enacted 34 personalities that she remembers from her time in Louisiana, after hurricane Katrina hit.
She said she felt compelled to connect with these individuals, who were struggling so visibly, without food to fill their children’s bellies and no beds to rest their heads in.
”She’s really ballsy and cool,” Harris said. “She shows no fear.”
Student Dylan Morley asked Smith about how she goes about the writing process. She shared some insight into her life, as a teen, as well as what it takes to inspire her now.
Movies on television, such as Clash of the Titans, have provided beginning ideas for some of her poems. She wrote a poem about how Medusa came to be the way she is, as a direct result, of watching late-night TV.
“I record snippets of the conversations of people I encounter and I keep a small recorder under my pillow, just in case,” Smith said.
In between poems, she’d ask how the audience was doing and would shift her weight from one foot to the next, in visible anticipation.
“I judge my poems by the way the audience reacts and by the looks on their faces,” she said.
There was a question and answer part to the event, as well as time for book signing, last Thursday. She currently teaches literature and poetry at City University of New York.
Previously published in the Valencia Voice