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Poetry and Literature

The Library of Congress > Poetry & Literature > Current Poet Laureate: Tracy K. Smith
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Tracy K. Smith (Photo Credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths)Tracy K. Smith, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2017- 
Photo credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden appointed Tracy K. Smith as the Library’s 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry on June 14, 2017, and reappointed her to a second term on March 22, 2018.

Tracy K. Smith was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts in 1972, and raised in Fairfield, California. She is the author of four books of poetry, including Wade in the Water (2018); Life on Mars (2011), winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; Duende (2007), winner of the 2006 James Laughlin Award and the 2008 Essence Literary Award; and The Body’s Question (2003), winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Smith is also the author of a memoir, Ordinary Light (2015), a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Nonfiction and selected as a Notable Book by The New York Times and The Washington Post.

“I am thrilled that Tracy K. Smith has accepted my invitation to continue sharing her poetry with the nation,” Hayden said of Smith’s reappointment to a second term on March 22, 2018. “Her exchanges with Americans in small towns and rural communities are inspiring an appreciation of poetry and history – and remind us that poetry has value for all of our lives.”

During her first term, Smith gave readings and led discussions as part of a pilot project in rural communities in New Mexico, South Carolina, and Kentucky. For her second term, she plans to pursue further engagement with small towns across America. “Poetry invites us to listen to other voices, to make space for other perspectives, and to care about the lives of others who may not look, sound or think like ourselves,” Smith said. “My project as Poet Laureate has brought me into contact with rural communities in the South and Southwest, and not only do we recognize and have many things to say to each other, but talking about poems together allows us to access and share our feelings and bear witness to the experiences that shape our lives. I’m excited to pursue this project further over the next year.”

For her poetry, Smith has received a Rona Jaffe Writers Award and a Whiting Award. In 2014, the Academy of American Poets awarded her with the Academy Fellowship, given to one poet each year to recognize distinguished poetic achievement. In 2016, she won the 16th annual Robert Creeley Award and Columbia University’s Medal for Excellence.

Tracy K. Smith earned a BA in English and American literature and Afro-American studies from Harvard University and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. From 1997 to 1999, she was a Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University. Smith has taught at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York, the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia University. She is currently the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor in the Humanities, and Director of the Creative Writing Program, at Princeton University.

Smith succeeds Juan Felipe Herrera as Poet Laureate and joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including Charles Wright, Natasha Trethewey, Philip Levine, W. S. Merwin, Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass, and Rita Dove.

For Poet Laureate media inquiries or event requests, please contact Blue Flower Arts.