In 1998, just after she'd been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, writer Patricia Smith was fired from the Boston Globe for having fabricated material in her columns. The scandal pretty much spelled the end of Smith's journalism career. From her home in Westchester County, New York, Smith recently said she's still struggling to understand why she let fictional people and fictional quotes slip into her stories, but she's glad, on some level, that she did. Otherwise, "I wouldn't have found the type of writing I was supposed to do." Namely, poetry.
While news commentators pointed self-righteous fingers, Smith's allies in the poetry community -- she was already the nation's foremost slam poet -- protected her "like a cocoon." Later that year, Smith got on-stage in Chicago and, according to the Modern American Poets website, "addressed such themes as vindictiveness, self-destruction, betrayal, depression, suicide, and self-redemption; the directness of transport from headlines to poetry arrested the audience. After her recital, the full auditorium rose for a lengthy standing ovation."
For anyone to think that Smith would never write again was, she says, "a really insane thing." She has since published a children's book and volumes of poetry, completed a visiting professorship at Georgia Tech, and is currently at work on a biography of Harriet Tubman. "I've been at home in my bunny slippers! I've been writing, traveling; I'm on my way to Florida!" she says, without much wistfulness for her newspaper job.
Smith admits to having a "rock star" fascination with other poets and says she's excited to join Sharon Olds (New York University professor and author of such scandalous works as "The Pope's Penis"), Thomas Lux (the sensitive, long-haired, tweed-jacket-wearing professor that every college girl dreams about), and Billy Collins (former poet laureate of the United States) as a featured presenter at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. Each of the star poets will lead workshops, perform his/her work, and lead a panel discussion. The festival takes place at Lynn University (3601 N. Military Trl., Boca Raton) from Friday through Sunday. A three-day pass costs $40; for a sponsorship as low as $25, eat dinner with the writers Friday night. Call 561-439-4044, or visit www.palmbeachpoetryfestival.com. -- Deirdra Funcheon
Can we Believe what he Says?
Good spies use a whole arsenal of tools to get the information they need, says Gen. Oleg Kalugin, the KGB's former head of worldwide foreign intelligence. "But the number-one tactic is to turn potential enemies into potential friends, to say you have good, friendly feelings toward their country... Greed, jealousy, vengeance -- those might come up later."
After spying in Washington and New York, Kalugin returned to Russia, where he publicly criticized the KGB and called for an overhaul of the intelligence system. "Gorbachev understood," he says, but "Gorbachev was ousted, and Yeltsin was too drunk to understand what was going on." Kalugin was charged with treason; if he returns to his native country, he will be thrown in jail. So he's staying in Maryland, where he is now a U.S. citizen and a board member at the International Spy Museum.
Kalugin will be joined by retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent David G. Major to discuss "FBI vs. KGB: Secrets from the Cold War" at 7:30 p.m. at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre (1001 E. Indiantown Rd., Jupiter) as part of the theater's International Spy Series -- which includes future lectures about "Sexpionage" and "The Art of Disguise." Tickets cost $35. Call 561-575-2223, or visit www.jupitertheatre.org. -- Deirdra Funcheon
The write side of poetry
Who says poetry readings are quiet, boring events put on by awkward hippie types? OK, so maybe that's often the case, albeit a gross oversimplification that ignores the true purpose of the art form, which is pure, unadulterated expression. Oh, and to hear a little soul music as well -- the way it's done at SHOUT!, the new open-mic night held every Saturday at EBE Juice and Coffee (300 SW First Ave., Fort Lauderdale). Hosted by Ray Dominguez -- a.k.a. Knowledge, founder of the Write Side Poets -- SHOUT! aims to bolster the local poetry scene with help from DJ Ray Scott, who provides the sounds. A noble effort, sure, but Dominguez has even grander plans in store. "In Tampa, we went into afterschool programs and taught young kids how to read and write through poetry," he says. "We're hoping to do the same here." The lyrical lattes get served from 7:30 to 11 p.m. The cost is $3. Call 954-767-8261 (EBE) or 954-779-POET (the Write Side). -- Jason Budjinski
Resolutions: Fuck 'Em If You Got 'Em
Are your New Year's resolutions going down faster than a virgin on prom night? Why fight the urge? Cathode Ray Bar says "fuck it" at the second-annual Fuck Resolutions party! Pick your poison, as all manner of sin will be accommodated. On the wagon? Fuck it; free booze. Swore off sweets? Fuck it; indulge in free dessert. Stopped smoking? Fuck that too -- they'll give you cigarettes until you cough up tar. Trying to curb a devious penchant for pyro-necrophilia? Drag in the corpse and they'll give you the match -- well, maybe not, but you get the idea. If you're ready to abandon hope , come out to Cathode Ray Bar (1307 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale) on Saturday. The cover, drinks, cigarettes, and desserts are free, and getting those annoying resolutions off your back is priceless. Call 954-462-8611, or visit www.cathoderayusa.com. -- Paul A. Leone