Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Award-Winning Poet Visits Georgetown to Speak with Students

Distinguished poet and award-winning author Patricia Smith engaged with students through a seminar discussion and poetry reading Jan. 24.

Hosted by the Georgetown University Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice, an initiative that studies poetry in the contemporary world, the event was part of a year-long program that 16 student fellows joined this academic year. Students in the program meet with various acclaimed poets and take a spring seminar course with Carolyn Forché, Georgetown English professor and Lannan Center director of readings and talks. The event consisted of a one-hour conversation between Smith and the fellows, dinner, a public reading inside Riggs Library and a reception where Smith signed copies of her book, “Incendiary Art.”

Forché said the seminar and program series bring poetry to life for students by giving them the chance to learn from poets in person.

“It is very interesting to bring living writers and poets to engage with our students because they have the experience of the work coming off the page and entering their own lives and being sung into a room filled with attentive listeners,” Forché told The Hoya. “It has been really gratifying to work on this, and I bring poets that I believe will have a profound effect on the people who speak with them here.

The Academy of American Poets recently named Smith as a new chancellor, a prestigious distinction given to only a few people in the field of poetry. Smith is also a professor of creative writing at Princeton University and has won the National Poetry Slam four times.

Smith said the seminar portion of her visit allowed her to personally connect with the student fellows over a common interest in spoken word.

@TheLannanCenter/Twitter | Patricia Smith, acclaimed poet and professor of creative writing at Princeton University, spoke with students through a special seminar program and gave a public poetry reading.

“You are in a room of people who are passionate about the same thing you are passionate about,” Smith told The Hoya. “There is a kind of release in the conversation. It is like, I leave there, and I am happy and excited about what poetry is doing.”

Patricia Guzman, the program manager at the Lannan Center, said Smith’s poetry closely addresses important issues through a unique lens.

“To read her poems is to not shy away from the ugly parts of social injustice but to really see the moment, whether in the past or present, clearly,” Guzman wrote to The Hoya. “Patricia Smith is an acclaimed, award-winning poet, but she is also a poet of her community.”

Elina Choi (CAS ’26), a fellow at the Lannan Center who introduced Smith at the public reading, said Smith’s work impacted her from an early age.

“Personally, I have been such a huge fan of slam and spoken word poetry, and when it comes to American spoken word, I think Ms. Smith is really one of the best, if not arguably the best,” Choi told The Hoya. “I really think poetry readings are so special because they allow the poet to convey their poem exactly how they wanted it to come across.”

Smith read excerpts from several of her books, including “Incendiary Art” and her upcoming book “Unshuttered.” She also read poems inspired by her Chicago community. 

Smith said she did not decide on a finalized list of poems to read until she was on stage. Smith brings a wide range of poems to pull from during her readings, and she said she enjoys being inspired by the physical space and audience of each performance.

“I like designing the reading as I am going along,” Smith said. “I like having a lot of types of poems at my disposal so that they can design it, so it becomes unique to every audience.”

Several of the poems that Smith performed focused on social justice issues, particularly racism in the United States. Smith told attendees that poetry was initially a recreational activity for her, but she later learned that it impacts listeners in unanticipated ways.

Smith said that during one of her events in the past, while reading a poem that she had written about fatal shootings of young people in her community, two women ran out of the room because they were picturing their own sons hurt by gun violence.

“That is when I know that you do not know who is in an audience, and people are looking for their stories,” Smith said at the event. “Most of us, when we are going through something, we feel alone. Poetry can reach out and say, ‘No, it is not just you.’”

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Emily Han
Emily Han, Senior Multimedia Editor
Emily Han is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences from Los Altos, Calif., studying government and economics. She was a ball kid for Roger Federer and Bill Gates when they played doubles together at the 2018 Match for Africa. [email protected]

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