2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award
2018 NAACP Image Award
Finalist 2018 Pulitzer Prize
Finalist Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Incendiary Art confronts the tyranny against the black male body and the tenacious grief of the mothers of murdered African American men. Dynamic sequences, including a compelling chronicle of the devastating murder of Emmett Till, serve as a backdrop for present-day racial calamities and calls for resistance. With impassioned eloquence and a sharpened focus on incidents of national mayhem and mourning, Patricia Smith reinvents the role of witness with an incendiary fusion of forms, including prose poems, ghazals, sestinas, and sonnets. This phenomenal, visionary book addresses what is frightening, and what is revelatory, about history now.
'Smith, one of the greatest contemporary poets in America, has to be among the truest and clearest of [Gwendolyn] Brooks’ descendants. The great Patricia Smith extends the reach of Brooks.... Anyone looking for what’s truly exceptional in American poetry should look at the Black women poets.' - Terrance Hayes, Poetry Society Annual Lecture 2021
‘Born in Chicago in 1955, Patricia is the author of some ten books. Her latest, Incendiary Art, binds together the young men killed and the grieving mothers from the 1950s to now in a chain of recognition, remembrance and rage.’ - Maria Margaronis, introducing Patricia Smith - Gwendolyn's heir on BBC Radio 4, 12 April 2020.
‘This week’s poem ['Incendiary Art: Ferguson, 2014'] is from Incendiary Art, Patricia Smith’s collection of searing elegies for black lives destroyed... In Smith’s poetry, we can feel the heat of imagination fused with technical control; the artist’s “rage for order” combined with the elegist’s grief, and the activist’s rage for justice.’ – Carol Rumens, Poem of the Week, The Guardian
'Incendiary Art is a substantial book of 129 pages. And there is not a single page which does not show an extraordinary, incandescent imagination...Smith’s concentration on the resonances of fatherhood and motherhood in this book give all this suffering a devastating, and inescapable relevance to all lives.' - Ian Pople, The Manchester Review
'Incendiary Art is unlike any contemporary poetry collection I’ve ever read. It hits you hard in the head, heart and guts. As its title suggests, it is incandescent with emotions that implode, rage and blaze on the page. In recent years, contemporary American poets such as Morgan Parker, Jericho Brown, Danez Smith and Claudia Rankine have written powerfully and radically about issues of race, gender and the body. In this new collection, Patricia Smith similarly confronts the racial violence systematically enacted against black lives as well as how such traumas are embodied and inherited in the twentieth- and twenty-first century. The effects are devastating and make for difficult but compelling reading.' - Jennifer Lee Tsai, The Poetry Review
'This powerful work chronicles incidents of violence committed against black males in America. At its heart is the murder of Emmett Till in 1995... This is is fierce, compelling and important poetry - for older students only.' - Frank Startup, The School Librarian
'Incendiary Art by Patricia Smith is an outstanding collection, hard to put down and impossible to forget. These are poems of witness, about racism and the violence perpetrated against black men and boys, and about the suffering of their mothers... this is a collection not to be missed.' - Adele Ward, ARTEMIS poetry
'Patricia Smith doesn’t mince her words. She is writing about race in America; the black male body, and the violence perpetrated against it, is one of the prominent themes of her latest collection, Incendiary Art, which has won numerous awards already in the States, and is being published here in by Bloodaxe in the spring. She is a very urgent voice we need to hear right now..' - Emily Cullen, Cuirt Festival Director, Galway Adverstiser
'I saw Patricia Smith read in 1998 and I've been showing her poetry to students for the thick end of twenty years. A pre-order of her Incendiary Art would be a good Christmas present for anyone, including me.' - Tim Turnbull, Poetry News (Christmas Books 2018)
‘Incendiary Art is the fire this time. An epic in five movements where history becomes tragedy, becomes farce, becomes fable. Where the reader becomes complicit, where outcomes burn into forgotten memories, and where nobody gets off the hook.’ – Marlon James
‘As with Smith’s previous books, one encounters an urgent voice on the page that is exuberant, sharp, and questing in its search for understanding of the fatalities that besiege black life in America. The imaginative qualities of these poems and others are what make them captivating. She is a poet of immense originality, and these poems are a testament to her powers.’ – Major Jackson
Patricia Smith: Incendiary Art
Patricia Smith reads nine poems from Incendiary Art: ‘Incendiary Art’, ‘No Wound of Exit’, an extract from ‘Sagas of the Accidental Saint’ (‘That’s my son collapsed there…’), ‘Incendiary Art: Ferguson’, ’That Chile Emmett in That Casket’, ’The Mother Dares Make Love Again, After’, ’And He Stays Dead’, ’Incendiary Art: The Body’, and ‘Runaway’. Neil Astley filmed Patricia Smith reading from Incendiary Art in Ireland in April 2019 when she was in Galway for Cúirt International Festival of Literature.
Patricia Smith: That Chile Emmett in That Casket
Patricia Smith reads ’That Chile Emmett in That Casket’ from Incendiary Art.
Patricia Smith: Sagas of the Accidental Saint
Patricia Smith reads an extract from ’Sagas of the Accidental Saint’ from Incendiary Art.
Patricia Smith: Map Rappin’
Patricia Smith reads ‘Map Rappin’’ (for John Coltrane, and forever for Bruce) from Teahouse of the Almighty (Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, 2006). Neil Astley filmed her reading a selection of poems in Ireland in April 2019 when she was in Galway for Cúirt International Festival of Literature. All the other poems she read are from Incendiary Art: https://vimeo.com/330767418
Patricia Smith: Live in Newcastle
Patricia Smith gave a brilliant reading from Incendiary Art – followed by an interview with Bloodaxe editor Neil Astley – at NCLA (Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts) on 18th October 2019.
North America: TriQuarterly Books (Northwestern University Press)