Patricia Smith is the winner of the 2021 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, an award for lifetime achievement from the Poetry Foundation. She is the author of nine books of poetry, including Unshuttered (2023), a collection of dramatic monologues accompanied by 19th-century photos of African Americans; Incendiary Art, winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry, the 2017 LA Times Book Prize, the 2018 NAACP Image Award and finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler, a National Book Award finalist; and three collaborations with award-winning visual artists — Gotta Go, Gotta Flow, with Chicago photographer Michael Abramson, and the books Crowns and Death in the Desert, with Sandro Miller, twice the Lucie Foundation’s International Photographer of the Year and one of the top advertising photographers in the world.
Smith’s other books include the poetry volumes Teahouse of the Almighty, Close to Death, Big Towns Big Talk, and Life According to Motown; the children's book Janna and the Kings and the history Africans in America, a companion book to the award-winning PBS series. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Baffler, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Tin House and in the anthologies Best American Poetry and Best American Essays. Her contribution to the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir won the Robert L. Fish Award from the Mystery Writers of America for the best debut story of the year and was featured in the anthology Best American Mystery Stories.
Smith has collaborated with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Angela’s Pulse Dance, the Sage String Quartet and singer Meshell Ndegeocello; Blood Dazzler, a dance/theater production based on her 2008 book, sold out a two-week run at the Harlem Stage under the guidance of award-winning director Patricia McGregor; her one-woman show Life After Motown, produced by Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott, was performed in residency at the Trinidad Theater Workshop. She has also toured and performed with the blues band Bop Thunderous.
Smith is a Guggenheim fellow, finalist for the Neustadt Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts grant recipient, a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize, a former fellow at Civitella Ranieri, Yaddo and MacDowell, and a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, the most successful poet in the competition’s history. In 2023, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.