A New Poet Laureate

The US has a new Poet Laureate. Tracy K. Smith is the 22nd in the nation’s history and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden.

Smith has written four books, a memoir and three books of poetry. The most recent is her memoir, Ordinary Light (PRH/Vintage, 2015; OverDrive Sample), which was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award and was a best of the year selection by a number of newspapers and magazines, including Oprah.com, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.


Her most recent poetry collection is Life on Mars (Graywolf, 2011; OverDrive Sample). It won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. There is also Duende (Graywolf, 2007) and The Body’s Question (Graywolf, 2003). Forthcoming in 2018 is Wade in the Water: Poems (Macmillan/Graywolf Press).

In the Library of Congress press release Hayden calls Smith:

a poet of searching. Her work travels the world and takes on its voices; brings history and memory to life; calls on the power of literature as well as science, religion and pop culture. With directness and deftness, she contends with the heavens or plumbs our inner depths—all to better understand what makes us most human.”

Smith says:

“I am profoundly honored. As someone who has been sustained by poems and poets, I understand the powerful and necessary role poetry can play in sustaining a rich inner life and fostering a mindful, empathic and resourceful culture. I am eager to share the good news of poetry with readers and future readers across this marvelously diverse country.”

She tells NPR how she hopes readers will respond to poetry: “What do you hear? What do you feel? What does this remind you of? … These are all real and valid reactions to a poem.”

Going further in her interview with the NYT, she sats “I want to give more readers access to more kinds of poems and poets. Poems are friendly, and they teach us how to read them.”

The LA Times interviews her and the Poetry Foundation provides an introduction and five poems to read.

Smith is a professor at Princeton University where she directs the creative writing program. Below, she does a reading:

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