Barry Smith

Performance Rites (2021)


After featuring in the BBC Proms Poetry and the Bread & Roses awards, Barry Smith’s debut collection explores the notion of life as performance. The poems examine ideas of change and transformation, of becoming, of disintegration and discovery.

There are poems on both classical and popular music, on art, theatre, poetry and clowns. The scope covers social rituals, philosophy, cultural transmission, political games, medical rites and the theatre of the natural world. It is a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows in a richly cultured landscape where readers, as both protagonist and audience, are called upon to measure their own experiences against the poet’s multi-layered exploration of the rituals of performance.

ISBN: 978-1-906742-95-9 Category: Tag:

Praise and Poems

Barry Smith is currently the director of the South Downs Poetry Festival and co-ordinator of the Festival of Chichester. He curates the poetry element of Blakefest and edits Poetry & All That Jazz magazine. Smith was runner-up in a recent BBC Proms Poetry Competition, and shortlisted for the Bread & Roses Songwriting and Spoken Word Award, 2021.


Nourished by the poet’s deep love of music, art, and place, these are wide- ranging poems, full of observed detail, wit, and a fully realised sense of history. In keeping with the title, the poems possess a vivacious performative energy. A rewarding collection.

– Penelope Shuttle

Smith’s poetry powerfully inhabits the interstices between performed and personal dramas to explore emotional rites of passage and mythical and real tragedies. The poems are informed by an evocative sense of place and wonder, as they conjure the mysteries of our human place in the natural and historical world. The poems vividly and sonorously celebrate moving connections between the communal culture of music, theatre and art and the individual’s imaginative journey.

– Stephanie Norgate

In these poems the reader’s awareness is sharpened wonderfully to the different perspectives and values the everyday can perform in and before our eyes, an everyday not contrasted with something more startling, but shown to be composed of views, versions and performances of all things seen.

– John Haynes (Costa Poetry Award winner, 2006)

Smith’s own poetry contribution to Blakefest involved a fine collaboration with Charlotte Glasson’s jazz trio. The fusion of poetry and jazz was often near-perfect, particularly in poems about legendary bassist Herbie Flowers’ role in Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side, and another about a Paul Klee painting that transmuted into powerful and moving lines about the Holocaust.

– Greg Freeman (Write Out Loud)

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