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Teahouse of the Almighty

4.36  ·  Rating Details ·  159 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews

A National Poetry Series winner, chosen by Edward Sanders.

“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

“I was weeping for the beauty of poetry when I reached the end of the final poem.”—Edward Sanders, National Poetry Series judge

Paperback, 91 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Coffee House Press
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This book. I took it off my folks' coffee table to, quite honestly, squeeze in my 2015 reading goal. Oh that skinny book I cracked open briefly last visit to my folks--that one with the Ella Fitzgerald poem, and poem for a son in prison--that will end my year quickly and well. Smith's signature and note to my mom in the front of the book--my mom can't remember where, but she must've shared her work with youth--belied the stature in my mind; I thought she must be local. Little did I know I was op ...more
R.G. Evans
May 29, 2011 R.G. Evans rated it really liked it
A prodigiously gifted poet--we were very fortunate to have her as featured poet at the Cumberland Regional Poetry Festival this month. Smith literally speaks in tongues, giving voices to murdered children, offstage blues singers, lechers, and silenced women of every stripe, using language so natural it's easy to forget you're reading crafted poems.
May 17, 2009 Julene rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I love Patricia Smith's poetry. Her words are jazz even when I don't understand. These are heart wrenching poems, like each her three other books. Each one I bow to.

The first poem in the book, "Building Nicole's Mama," which I witnessed her perform in a slam last year in Seattle, should bring tears to anyone's eyes. "A teacher tells me this is the first time Nicole/has admitted that her mother is gone,/murdered by slim silver needles and a stranger/her skeleton through for Nicole to see./And now
Mar 01, 2009 Michael rated it really liked it
Not pretentious yet literary. A combination of the page and the stage, using conventions and breaking them. The poem about her son coming back from jail destroyed me in the best way. I can only remember not rereading maybe two or three poems. The others I came back too constantly. Which is amazing to consider I rarely read a book twice, as I usually get what I need to get and remember it all. But when I come back it means memory doesn't suffice, I gotta get my fix and retread that path.

She's one
Jul 12, 2014 Eva rated it it was amazing
I first heard Patricia Smith on Def Poetry Jam. When it came on at 1 in the morning on HBO. She wrote a poem about being a white supremacist. I was amazed. I could see the bald head, the angry look.

This book is no less amazing. In particular, Related to the Buttercup, Blooms in Spring , Building Nicole's Mama and When the Burning Begins are prime examples of why she is a huge name in poetry.

If you haven't read or seen her, what are you waiting for?
Jul 15, 2009 Stacie rated it it was amazing
This is a slim volume of poetry- 48 poems, 91 pages- but it explodes in your head like a deployed airbag: loud and fast, leaving little little hurts behind that somehow let you know you are still alive. It hits you like a kick in the gut that makes you fight for breath and smile at the same time. I know, intellectually, that there are people who will not like this book or this poet but emotionally I still want to stand on the corner and hand a copy to everyone that walks past.
Jul 12, 2010 Andrea rated it it was amazing
A very moving collection of poetry. Smith is visual and visceral. It is difficult to imagine reading some of the performance poets I've heard in the past, but when I read Patricia Smith, I can actually hear her voice in every line. I'm a positive person, so reading things that are very dark can be hard for me. Even the works that were disturbing in their subject matter are so beautiful that I found myself moved, and better for having read them.
May 01, 2015 A. rated it really liked it
One of those books of poems where I love the content but am not a big stylistic fan, necessarily. Definitely Smith's poems are ones better heard than read. There a couple poems in here that really knocked me out of the park, though, and I think the celebration of blackness will really appeal to people who it's meant for.
Laura  Yan
Apr 05, 2016 Laura Yan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This is how poetry is meant to be! Alive, raw, vivid, sensual, gruesome, heartbreaking, playful...some difficult subjects but always written with such heart. She might have quickly become one of my favorites!
Oct 02, 2015 Christine rated it it was amazing


Thanks Clem for the recommendation.

I loved the language, the rhythm, and the topics.

Favorite poems were:

Stop the Presses
Look at 'em
Women are Taught
Down 4 the Upstroke
When the Burning Begins
Apr 24, 2010 Patricia marked it as to-read
Patricia Smith is an amazing poet. In this book, she comes at Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans from the inside out, personifying both the city and the storm, and making both terrifyingly and brutally real.
Nov 09, 2016 Stefani rated it really liked it
It's been awhile since I've read poetry, but Patricia Smith's work is just so well-written; you can tell she has experience as a spoken word poet. She nails the end of each poem with such grace and wistfulness.
Feb 14, 2015 Mike rated it it was amazing
An incredible collection of deeply felt, lyric and powerful poems. Smith brings art, honesty and a heart that witnesses to her work. I'm in awe of the poetry in this book.
Mar 10, 2009 Corey rated it it was amazing
I literally read this book for nearly a year straight.
Sep 13, 2010 Julie rated it it was amazing
Completely stunning. The way that she arcs, exhausts and turns language is brilliant. These poems brought me into their houses and would not let me leave.
David Kealii
Mar 09, 2009 David Kealii rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Excellent craft and subject matter. Ranges from the personal to the political with everything in between.
And headcheese. Headcheese shows up in a poem. I love that.
Nov 01, 2011 Tasha rated it it was amazing
Nicole K
Nicole K rated it it was amazing
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Jun 22, 2007
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  • Duende
  • Teeth
  • The Book of Light
  • Hip Logic
  • M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A
  • Head Off & Split
  • This Time: New and Selected Poems
  • Domestic Work: Poems
  • Red Suitcase
  • Against Which
  • New and Selected Poems, 1975-1995
  • Book of My Nights
  • Boy with Thorn
  • Smoke
  • Looking for the Gulf Motel
  • The Simple Truth
  • Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected
  • Sweet Machine

Called “a testament to the power of words to change lives,” Patricia Smith is a renaissance artist of unmistakable signature, recognized as a force in the fields of poetry, playwriting, fiction, performance and creative collaboration.

More about Patricia Smith...

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“What You Pray Toward

“The orgasm has replaced the cross as the focus of longing and the image of fulfillment.”
—Malcolm Muggeridge, 1966


Hubbie 1 used to get wholly pissed when I made
myself come. I’m right here!, he’d sputter, blood
popping to the surface of his fuzzed cheeks,
goddamn it, I’m right here! By that time, I was
in no mood to discuss the myriad merits of my
pointer, or to jam the brakes on the express train
slicing through my blood, It was easier to suffer
the practiced professorial huff, the hissed invectives
and the cold old shoulder, liver-dotted, quaking
with rage. Shall we pause to bless professors and
codgers and their bellowed, unquestioned ownership
of things? I was sneaking time with my own body.
I know I signed something over, but it wasn’t that.


No matter how I angle this history, it’s weird,
so let’s just say Bringing Up Baby was on the telly
and suddenly my lips pressing against
the couch cushions felt spectacular and I thought
wow this is strange, what the hell, I’m 30 years old,
am I dying down there is this the feel, does the cunt
go to heaven first, ooh, snapped river, ooh shimmy
I had never had it never knew, oh i clamored and
lurched beneath my little succession of boys I cried
writhed hissed, ooh wee, suffered their flat lapping
and machine-gun diddling their insistent c’mon girl
c’mon until I memorized the blueprint for drawing
blood from their shoulders, until there was nothing
left but the self-satisfied liquidy snore of he who has
rocked she, he who has made she weep with script.
But this, oh Cary, gee Katherine, hallelujah Baby,
the fur do fly, all gush and kaboom on the wind.


Don’t hate me because I am multiple, hurtling.
As long as there is still skin on the pad of my finger,
as long as I’m awake, as long as my (new) husband’s
mouth holds out, I am the spinner, the unbridled,
the bellowing freak. When I have emptied him,
he leans back, coos, edges me along, keeps wondering
count. He falls to his knees in front of it, marvels
at my yelps and carousing spine, stares unflinching
as I bleed spittle unto the pillows.
He has married a witness.
My body bucks, slave to its selfish engine,
and love is the dim miracle of these little deaths,
fracturing, speeding for the surface.


We know the record. As it taunts us, we have giggled,
considered stopwatches, little laboratories. Somewhere
beneath the suffering clean, swathed in eyes and silver,
she came 134 times in one hour. I imagine wires holding
her tight, her throat a rattling window. Searching scrubbed
places for her name, I find only reams of numbers. I ask
the quietest of them:


Are we God?”
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