Place of birth
United Kingdom
Place of residence
United Kingdom
National identity
United Kingdom

Dorothea Smartt

Short biography
Dorothea Smartt has an international reputation as a respected literary activist, live artist, and established poet. Born and raised in London, with Barbadian heritage, she is described as a 'Brit-born Bajan international’. Over the past twenty years, her credits include engagements with the British Council in Bahrain, South Africa, USA, Egypt, and Hungary. She was keynote speaker at Barbados’ Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Award, 2013. She has two full collections, Connecting Medium and Ship Shape [Peepal Tree Press]. Her recent chapbook, Reader, I Married Him & Other Queer Goings-On, “…is subversive, radical, and surprisingly panoramic...” She is currently researching a live art work, including a third full poetry collection. In it she continues to rework standard narratives, this time imagining same-sex relationships and cross-gender experiences among ‘West Indian’ workers on the Panama Canal in the early 1900’s.

Dorothea Smartt, born and raised in London, is of Barbadian heritage. Her work as a poet and live artist receives critical attention in both Britain and the U.S.A. She is acknowledged as tackling multilayered cultural myths and the real life experiences of Black women with searing honesty. She was Brixton Market's first Poet-in-Residence, and a former Attached Live Artist at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, and a Guest writer at Florida International University and Oberlin College, U.S.A. Her evocative and spirited voice 'coils up your feelings, around granite chips of truth...unwinds solace, in the most soothing volleys' (Caribbean Times).

Awarded several commissions and bursaries, she's a member of the Black Arts Alliance and an Afro-Style School 'graduate'. Her solo work, 'medusa', is considered an 'Outstanding Black Example'. Other collaborative performances include: 'from you to me to you' (An Institute of Contemporary Arts, Live Arts Commission); 'fo(u)r women'; and 'home is where the heart kicks' (A Black Arts Alliance Commission). Her first play, ‘fall out’, (a Theatre Venture multi-media commission) successfully toured primary schools in and around London. She is an artist in the residency/exhibition project 'TradeWinds-LandFall 2007-8 between London and Houston, due to exhibit at London’s Museum in Docklands 2008-9.

Described as ‘accessible and dynamic’, her poetry appears in several journals and ground-breaking anthologies, including Bittersweet (Women's Press, 1998), The Fire People (Payback Press, 1998), Mythic Women/Real Women (Faber, 2000), IC3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain (2000), and A Storm Between Fingers (Flipped Eye, 2007).

She continues to work in schools, run workshops and perform in Britain and abroad. She is poetry editor of Sable (a magazine for new writing by Black writers), while currently researching and developing new works and working towards her second full collection.

Quotes about Dorothea

'She writes, within a tradition of artists working and re-working diasporic connections ...precisely so that, continuously enriched and informed by an active past, Black people can face the world as our own subjects.'
Maxine Miller, Lambeth librarian

'...witty, caught up, fresh and connected. A new generation'
Dr. Mary Hanna, University of the West Indies (Mona)

'Some of the most exciting poetry being written in England today… highly intuitive yet of the evening's highlights.'
Lauri Ramey, Konch

'Straight down the line, Dorothea Smartt shoots it past you...the pulse of her work rises and falls...images make noise, silences are transformed.'
Konrad Keno Foster, Caribbean Times

'One of the most daring and exciting figures to emerge from London's poetry scene ... Constantly experiment(ing) with both the form and content of her work, tackling the themes of identity, alienation and self-fulfilment with refreshing boldness.'
Apples and Snakes

'A powerful black woman making herself heard ...Smartt offers images...which are realistic and mythical, deadly serious and wryly ironic.'
Lisbeth Goodman, Modern Drama