"Sometimes, the words come to her on the Garden State Parkway or on the Outerbridge Crossing, snippets of verse that capture a flash of light, an eruption of color, a piercing cry,"Rachel L. Swarns wrote Sunday for her column "The Working Life" in the New York Times.
"She recites the words aloud, burning them into memory, as she steps out of the faculty parking lot at the College of Staten Island and climbs the stairs to her second-floor office.
"She recites the words because she wants to hear how they hit the air, to feel how they roll off the tongue, to know if they are discordant shards or melodious fragments of a sonorous whole.
"Where's that girl going? Past slant sag porches, pea shuck, twangy box guitars begging under purple dayfall.
"She is Patricia Smith, Staten Island’s literary sensation, a poet, an English professor and a star on the national stage. Last month, she won the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, awarded by the Library of Congress to luminaries such as James Merrill, Louise Glück and Mark Strand. In April, she won a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry.
"'Extraordinary,' Lee Papa, the interim chairman of the English department at the College of Staten Island, said last week.
"It is all the more extraordinary if you consider her story.
"Patricia Smith, the nationally acclaimed poet, is also Patricia Smith, the disgraced former journalist who plunged into a black hole of her own making in 1998.
"She was a columnist for The Boston Globe, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a lauded wordsmith who resigned after admitting that she had invented characters and quotes in a scandal that prompted self-examination at newspapers across the country.
"Since then, she has salvaged a successful writing life from the ashes and quietly closed the door on her past. There is no mention of her years in journalism on her faculty bio page or on her personal website. . . ."
"In recent months Tanzina Vega showed how varied and powerful a national beat focusing on race could be: She explored the psyches of minority gun owners, looked at school discipline and how it varies by ethnicity, and was tear-gassed in Ferguson while covering the events there,"Wendell Jamieson, metropolitan editor of the New York Times, and Dean Chang, his deputy, wrote to Times staffers on Monday.
"But as we've told many a Foreign correspondent, you don't need to travel abroad to find adventure: The Metro desk can accommodate you right here in New York. So too is it true that all the issues of justice, race and inequality play out in the five boroughs just as they do elsewhere, perhaps even more so. And nowhere are they more evident, and in technicolor, than in our teeming courtrooms.
"So we're excited to announce that Tanzina, who first worked for The Times as a Metro stringer and graduated next door at CUNY, will return and open up our first full-time Bronx courthouse beat. . . ."
Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy did not respond to an inquiry about the status of the national race beat.
|Audra D.S. Burch of the Miami Herald interviews U.S. Army veteran Howard Bowen Heffner, who lives under an expressway, for a story on Miami's biannual count of the community's homeless population. (Credit: Al Diaz/Miami Herald)|