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Dorothea Smartt

Dorothea Smartt (°1963) is a poet and live artist of Barbadian descent who was born and raised in London. She holds a BA in Social Sciences from South Bank Polytechnic and an MA in Anthropology from Hunter College (CUNY).

Her poetry features in several anthologies and journals as well as in the online Poetry Archive and typically bridges the islands of Britain and Barbados. Her seminal work “Medusa? Medusa Black!” (2001), was hailed as an outstanding example of British live art. Her first poetry collection Connecting Medium (2001) features poems from her performance works “Medusa” and “From You To Me To You.” Her second volume Ship Shape (2008) develops a pamphlet collection (2007) that was commissioned by Lancaster Litfest and the Slave Trades Art Memorial Project. It offers a name and imagined life to the African buried in Samboo’s Grave, Lancaster. In 2014 she published the chapbook collection Reader, I Married Him & Other Queer Goings-On. In her forthcoming third collection she continues to rework standard narratives, this time examining same-sex relationships and cross-gender experiences among ‘West Indian’ workers on the Panama Canal in the early 20th century.

She has worked with black women’s co-operatives in Brixton and has been a Poet in Residence at Brixton Market as well as a part-time lecturer in Creative Writing at Birkbeck College (University of London) and Leeds University. She has been the recipient of Arts Council of England funding awards and has held various national and international residencies, including at London’s Institute for Contemporary Arts.

Currently, she is a visiting lecturer at the Royal College of Art, Programme Manager of Inscribe (Peepal Tree Press’s writer development programme), and Associate Poetry Editor at SABLE Litmag. In 2016 she was honoured with a nomination for a Barbados Golden Jubilee Award and her collection Ship Shape was proposed as an ‘A’ Level English Literature text. (EB/SC/DS)


Scafe, Suzanne. “Circuits of Identity and Cultural Transformation in the Work of Two Caribbean-Diaspora Poets, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze and Dorothea Smartt". JDEIC, 2012, vol 14, no. 1, pp. 42-64.

 . "Translation, resistance and the transformational poetics of Dorothea Smartt and Amryl Johnson." Transcultural Roots Uprising: The Rhizomatic Languages, Literatures, and Cultures of the Caribbean, edited by N. Faraclas, R. Severing, C. Weijer, E. Echted and M. Hinds- Lane. University of the Netherlands Antilles, 2013, pp 87-100.

Smartt, Dorothea. Connecting Medium. Peepal Tree Press, 2001.

—. “Hairdresser: Holding Her Own.” Hair Power, Skin Revolution: A Collection of Poems and Personal Essays by Black and Mixed-Race Women, edited by Nicole Moore. Troubadour, 2010, p.164.

—. Sambo's Grave-Bilal's Grave. Peepal Tree Press,2007.

—. ​Ship Shape. Peepal Tree Press, 2008.

—. Reader, I Married Him & Other Queer Goings-On, 2014.

Sairsingh, Marie. “Transcending conventional identity structures: Dorothea Smartt’s re-negotiated self-projections.”Journal of English and Literature, November 2012, Vol. 3 No. 7, pp. 154-157.

Sokari. “Kagendo Murungi- Interview with Dorothea Smartt, Brit Born Bajan Literary Activist, Live Artist & Poet”, 22 May 2014.

Walters, Tracey. “Black British Women’s and the Politics of Hair.” Diasporic Women’s Writing of the Black Atlantic: (En)Gendering Literature and Performance, edited by Emilia M. Durán-Almarza and Esther Álvarez-López, Routledge, 2014, pp. 60-62.

Image source: Robert Taylor