Teahouse of the Almighty

Poetry by Patricia Smith

September 1, 2006 • 6 x 9 • 114 pages • 978-1-56689-193-6

A National Poetry Series winner, chosen by Edward Sanders.

From Lollapalooza to Carnegie Hall, Patricia Smith has taken the stage as this nation’s premier performance poet. Featured in the film Slamnation and on the HBO series Def Poetry Jam, Smith is back with her first book in over a decade—a National Poetry Series winner weaving passionate, bluesy narratives into an empowering, finely tuned celebration of poetry’s liberating power.

About the Author

Patricia Smith is the author of six volumes of poetry, including Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the 2013 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets and the Phillis Wheatley Award from the Quarterly Black Review; Blood Dazzler, a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and Teahouse of the Almighty, a National Poetry Series selection. Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays and Best American Mystery Stories. Professor for the City University of New York and a Cave Canem faculty member, she lives in New Jersey with her husband, Edgar Award–winning novelist Bruce DeSilva, and her dogs Brady and Rondo.


“A rich, dense feast of poetry.” Hazel and Wren

“Smith appears to be that rarest of creatures, a charismatic slam and performance poet whose artistry truly survives on the printed page. Present at the creation of the slam in early-’80s Chicago and included in seminal films and anthologies, Smith (Big Towns, Big Talk, 1992) receded from the scene in recent years after her career as a newspaper journalist ended in scandal. This National Poetry Series–winning volume marks a triumphal return, showing an energetic writer with four urgent subjects. She depicts endangered children. She celebrates sex and sexuality, from the public display of celebrities to the power of the female orgasm: ‘Don’t hate me because I’m multiple.’ She considers the heritage of black American art, in musical performance and in writing. Finally, she describes the experience of performance itself, with all its pride and embarrassment: ‘Angry, jubilant, weeping poets . . . we are all/ saviors, reluctant hosannas in the limelight.’ Several poems also animate the troubled lives of famous blues singers; elsewhere, a mother considers how her incarcerated son became a ‘jailhouse scribe.’ A superb variety of lines and forms—short and long, hesitant and rapid-fire—gives the book additional depth. Smith even offers fine advice: ‘Breathe/ like your living depends on it.’” Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Smith writes the way Tina Turner sings.” E. Ethelbert Miller

Teahouse of the Almighty is searing, honest, well-crafted, and full of the real world transformed by Patricia Smith’s fine ear for nuance and the shaking of the soul’s duties. I was weeping for the beauty of poetry when I reached the end of the final poem.” Edward Sanders, National Poetry Series judge

“What power. Smith’s poetry is all poetry. And visceral. Her poems get under the skin of their subjects. Their passion and empathy, their real worldliness, are blockbuster.” Marvin Bell

“Not many poets will make you laugh out loud, grow uneasily warm with the recognition of self, sit riveted by the sheer shock of contending with human suffering, and feel as if you are alone with her as she tells her stories. But not many poets are Patricia Smith and not many books are as delightful and moving as her splendid Teahouse of the Almighty. Her secret is an absolute comfort in her own voice—her poems arrive with assurance and force.” Kwame Dawes

“These poems are so fierce and tender, so unflinching, so loud and exquisite, so carefully crafted, so important, so right-on. They can make you gasp, rage, weep, belly-laugh, throw your arms open to them and the worlds they contain, push away or punch at the wrongs they chronicle. They bear such terrible beauty. Brava to Miss Patricia Smith, who pulls poems from the center of the earth.” Elizabeth Alexander