“Poetry is a way of telling huge stories in very small spaces,” Patricia Smith says.
She’s a four time National Poetry Slam Champion, in Minneapolis to speak this evening as part of the Nommo African American Writers series.
Like many people though she’s thinking about the election.
“For me, any time I am excited about something, or saddened by something, or angered by something, my first instinct is to run for paper and pen, ” she says.
She uses these tools to write her way out of confusion she is feeling, or to better understand her emotions at some news.
She thinks there’s a lot of people doing that today around the USA.
“And that is on both sides of the spectrum,” she says. “It could be if you are happy about the election or if you are sad. You need to figure out what does this mean to my root in the world? Does it weaken my root in the world? Does it strengthen it?”
Smith, a former Boston Globe columnist who resigned in a cloud of controversy in the late 1990’s entered into the poetry open-mike world in Chicago and built a second career.
“I am sure there’s a lot of people scribbling furiously right now so they can get up on stage tonight, and tell how they feel about everything,” she says. “I was just looking on Facebook and some people have posted poems that they wrote yesterday.”
Smith says poetry is at it’s best a creative conversation, and sometimes, like now, it can be a raw and imperfect.
“If we can get over the fact that every time you go to the page it’s got to be this perfectly well-crafted thing, and realize that sometimes poetry is a rant, or it is you bellowing in the face of your adversary. And I think, yeah, it’s a day for poetry because it’s a day of extreme emotion in both directions.”
Patricia Smith will speak this evening at the Cowles Auditorium at the Hubert H Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota.
You can listen to her performing her work here.
You can hear our conversation on the election here:
This is our conversation on the place of poetry in her life now:
And here we talk about the difference between being a poet and a columnist: