“I don’t think I’m ever going to do an entire poem that’s going to be understood by a particular group all the way through. I also realize that when I’m listening to someone else’s reading and I can’t immediately latch onto the narrative, then I’m fascinated by the craft. And that pulls me to want to do more of my own research about the narrative. But poetry is also a way for me to learn things. I have a poem about the Louvre in Paris, and I would go to a school on the West Side of Chicago, and I wouldn’t do that poem because I would think, ‘Nobody here has been to the Louvre.’ And then I realized how crazy that was. Because I hadn’t been there either at one point, and the poem itself was about that joy of discovering something that people have tried to keep from you. If you don’t understand the specifics or you can’t visualize the Louvre, it’s my job to help you visualize it. And the interest of the poem is not for you to be an expert on what I’m talking about; it’s for you to feel the joy I felt when I sat down at the keyboard to write. Sometimes it’s the feeling in the poem that you need to latch on to, not the particulars of the narrative. And sometimes, when it’s the narrative, I count on the craft to be intriguing enough to pull you in, to want to do your own work to access it.” – Patricia Smith
Sharper with a Border: Patricia Smith on form, fathers, and the voice you don’t hear. – Kyla Marshell – Poetry
Patricia Smith – DOIN’ THE LOUVRE
Paris, December 1991
for Patricia Zamora
You’re a junkie just like I am.
After we dump your husband in the Louvre’s cafe
to sip the steaming tea and chew on his poetry,
we’re off like schoolgirls, screeching in duet,
dazzled by the bright eternal gasp of ancient things.