Patricia Smith, four time winner of the National Poetry Slam, gave a talk at Bush Auditorium at Rollins college. She began her reading with the poem Building Nicole's Mama. Listen to the audio clip on the link. Patricia stressed the any aspiring poet or anyone who loves poetry should spend as much time as possible listening to the authors of the poems reading their own words. It offers a chance to hear firsthand the authors intent and meaning in tone and pacing. The child's hunger to recover from loss is primal and hit me in the gut waiting to recover my breath.
All of her poetry hit with the same force. She read several poems about Hurricane Katrina in which she personified the storm and then in another poem she gave voices to the 34 nursing home residents who were left to die in Saint Bernard's Parish in New Orleans. The poem had 34 stanzas which bought to light each residents thoughts and hopes as the storm approached.
In a question and answer session afterward Patricia stressed the importance of getting at the truth. She said authors should not write around issues or conflicts but be honest with themselves facing the truth head on. She stressed that you don't want to get to the end of your life and realize that you had not taken every chance to be completely honest in your writing.
Can a sketch ever have the emotional impact of poetry like Patricia's? I am not sure but it is certainly something to aspire towards.