October 13, 2009
The electrifying voice of award-winning poet Patricia Smith filled Bush Auditorium recently, capturing the audience with her engaging performance poetry. She performed her fiery, spunky poetry with the power of 20 people, while holding onto the sensitivity of subjects like love, the dangers of urban life, and Hurricane Katrina.
Smith is the author of five acclaimed books of poetry and was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award with her most recent book Blood Dazzler. She is also a four-time national individual champion of the National Poetry Slam.
“In Blood Dazzler, Smith creates a minute-by-minute play of before, after, and during Hurricane Katrina,” said Dr. Vidhu Aggarwal, professor of English and editor of Specs*, a journal of contemporary culture and arts at Rollins College that aims to create sympathetic interfaces between artistic and critical practices. “Smith is really notable on the page and is an amazing performer. That is something not a lot of writers can do.”
During Hurricane Katrina, Rollins kept a close relationship with the city. “Rollins is all about service learning and community,” said Aggarwal. “We actually had a group go to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit to help the communities there.”
Rollins has hosted many exciting literary events and some great poets, like Carol Frost and Billy Collins, have visited the campus. The Patricia Smith event launched Volume 2 of Specs, which featured the theme “Faux Histories.” “Faux Histories” describes the post-modern fabrication of histories. Smith holds onto this theme by taking on the persona of many different voices, while still being able to enact her own voice. Especially with Blood Dazzler, Smith has that inventive history.
Smith noted during the performance that she took no deep psychological quest to find the voices of Hurricane Katrina, but rather a poetic quest. She said that with Hurricane Katrina there was tragedy upon tragedy and after a while the people lost their names and she wanted their voice to be heard.
“It’s hard for me to look at a situation like that at face value,” said Smith. “It’s a human feeling.”
To learn more about Patricia Smith, please visit http://www.specsjournal.org/.
-Mary Neville '13