Winter 2018| Patricia Smith | Vol. 1, Iss. 3

Welcome to The Fight & The Fiddle, a publication of the Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University. Each issue gives you a 360-degree view of a Black poet, including an interview, new poems, a critical essay, and a writing prompt inspired by our featured poet. 


This quarter, we’re proud to feature the prolific and powerful Patricia Smith, winner of a 2018 NAACP Image Award for her most recent collection, Incendiary Art. Author of ten books, including Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, Blood Dazzler, Teahouse of the Almighty, and longtime legend of the stage, Smith’s voice carries in it the music of histories—each vital note resonating, rising, and shattering the threat of silence.

  • The Interview: Patricia Smith talks with The Fight & The Fiddle editor Lauren K. Alleyne about getting her MFA, the people who inspire her, and how Incendiary Art came to be.
  • Critical Review: Dr. Lillian Bertram reviews Smith’s latest collection of “necessary and uncompromising poetry.”
  • Poems: What Breath Gives Back is an ekphrastic series—a triple crown of sonnets, no less—that takes as its inspiration photographs from Smith’s vast collection of photos dating back to the 1850s. According to Smith, “The persona poems in What Breath Gives Back will fashion imaginary lives to give presence and voice to forgotten people who no longer have either of their own.” Read parts #3, #6, #8, and #19 of this 45-sonnet sequence!
  • Writing Prompts: Our featured poet is a master of form. Are you?

Cover design by Robert Mott & Associates. Photos by Rachel Eliza Griffiths.