| Created by Peter Armenti, Digital Reference Specialist
Tracy K. Smith
U.S. Poet Laureate, 2017-
Photo credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths
On June 14, 2017, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced the appointment of Tracy K. Smith as the 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. On making the appointment, Dr. Hayden said:
It gives me great pleasure to appoint Tracy K. 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 took up her duties in the fall, opening the Library’s annual literary season on September 13, 2017 with a reading of her work in the Coolidge Auditorium. In January 2018, Smith began one of her major projects as Poet Laureate: taking poetry to audiences outside places where poets typically
present their work. As she described in a February 2018 visit to Emory University:
"I wanted to go into the more rural communities that don’t have programming on a consistent basis, where people’s lives are equally affected by the kinds of questions and memories that poems can draw upon. If writers and scholars are only talking to each other, we’re missing out on a huge part of the story.”
Elaborating on the inpiration behind her rural communites project in an April Library of Congress podcast, Smith said:
I wanted to sort of step off the path of the circuit. I wanted to feel the difference between
doing what I normally do which is reading poems as part of a reading series or festivals—communities of
writers—and reading poems in places where there are probably aspiring poets and lovers of poetry and
then people who aren’t as connected to the art form who might come out of curiosity. I wanted to see if
it’s true that the feelings that poems alert us to transcend different divisions of place, of, you know,
almost everything, geography being one of them (and, of course, there are lots of things that geography
is a container for as well). So I wanted to see what it would feel like to, kind of, cross different divides,
and it’s been exciting.
During her first term, Smith's took three pilot project trips to rural communities in New Mexico, South Carolina, and Kentucky. On March 22, 2018, Smith was appointed to a second term as Poet Laureate, during which she will expand her outreach efforts to rural communities.
At the close of her first term, Smith offered the following comment on her Poet Laureate project:
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. 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.
Smith's first term officially closed on April 19, 2018. Her concluding program, “Staying Human: Poetry in the Age of Technology” (full text available through Washington Post) featured a talk followed by a discussion with Washington Post Book World editor Ron Charles:
Smith's major project during her second term is American Conversations: Celebrating Poems in Rural Communities, which continues her first-term rural communities project. As she describes:
American Conversations chronicles my first-term trips to New Mexico, Kentucky and South Carolina, and it will continue to track my adventures with poetry in Alaska, South Dakota, Maine and Louisiana. You’ll find photos, audio recordings, interviews, poetry commentary and reflections on my time on the road. We’ll be adding more content throughout the rest of my second term, so check in periodically for updates.
As part of her second term as Laureate, Smith has edited an anthology called American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time. The anthology was published in September 2018 by Graywolf Press in association with the Library of Congress and will be incorporated into Smith’s visits to rural communities.
During her second term, Smith also began hosting a weekday podcast and radio feature titled "The Slowdown." The podcast launched November 26, 2018, and became available through public radio on January 14, 2019. Each five-minute episode, produced by American Public Media, features Smith reading works by writers from around the country and the world and exploring how poetry helps us better understand life, history, art, science and more. The program encourages listeners to make a daily space for poetry in an increasingly busy and chaotic world.
The remainder of this guide provides access to selected online resources related to Tracy K. Smith's life and work. To suggest additions to this guide, please contact the Digital Reference Team.
Note on Contacting Tracy K. Smith. If you would like to contact Tracy K. Smith, please direct your inquiries as suggested below:
- Reading and Event Requests: Contact Blue Flower Arts , which represents Smith, if you would like to schedule Smith for a reading or other event.
- Permissions Requests: Contact the publisher of the poem or other material written by Smith that you'd like to reproduce.
- Other Questions: Contact the
Library's Poetry and Literature Center.
Library of Congress Web Site
•Biographical Information, Press Releases, Articles, and Blog Posts
•Biographical Information, Blog Posts, Press Releases, Articles, Videos, and Poetry
•Selected Prize Citations
•Interviews, Articles, and Conversations
•Articles and Essays by Tracy K. Smith
•Tracy K. Smith in the News
Biographical Information, Blog Posts, Press Releases, Articles, and Videos
Poetry and Literature Center Biography of Tracy K Smith
"'American Conversations' in Louisiana"
From the Catbird Seat, January 16, 2019
"'The Slowdown' is on the Airwaves, Coast to Coast!"
From the Catbird Seat, January 14, 2019
"'American Conversations' in Maine"
From the Catbird Seat, December 18, 2018
"U.S. Poet Laureate: Poetry Leads to ‘Profound Conversation’"
From the Catbird Seat, November 30, 2018
"'American Conversations' in South Dakota"
From the Catbird Seat, November 29, 2018
"Check Out 'The Slowdown' Podcast Series Now"
From the Catbird Seat, November 26, 2018
"Keeping Up with the Laureate"
From the Catbird Seat, October 29, 2018
"I Can’t Wait to Slow Down: Looking Forward to Tracy K. Smith on the Air"
From the Catbird Seat, October 23, 2018
"American Conversations”: Alaska Content Now Online!"
From the Catbird Seat, October 18, 2015
"'American Conversations' Travelogue: Alaska"
From the Catbird Seat, October 2, 2018
“How Do I Read a Poem?” with Tracy K. Smith
From the Catbird Seat, September 12, 2018
Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Launches “American Conversations”
From the Catbird Seat, August 9, 2018
"New Poetry Podcast Series Launches"
From the Catbird Seat, April 26, 2018
"Tracy K. Smith Closes First Term as Poet Laureate"
From the Catbird Seat, April 20, 2018
"Behind the Scenes with Tracy K. Smith"
From the Catbird Seat, April 12, 2018
"Endings and New Beginnings with Tracy K. Smith"
From the Catbird Seat, March 27, 2018
"Pic of the Week: Introducing Tracy K. Smith, the 22nd Poet Laureate"
Library of Congress Blog, September 15, 2017
"Tracy K. Smith’s Catbird Seat"
From the Catbird Seat, September 13, 2017
"Welcome to our New Poet Laureate!"
From the Catbird Seat, June 14, 2017
"American Public Media Launches Public Radio Broadcast of 'The Slowdown' in Partnership with Library of Congress, Poetry Foundation"
January 16, 2019
"U.S. Poet Laureate Brings Poetry to Podcast and Radio Audiences with 'The Slowdown'"
October 2, 2018
"Librarian of Congress Appoints Tracy K. Smith to Second Term as Poet Laureate"
March 22, 2018
"Tracy K. Smith to Give Opening Reading as Poet Laureate Sept. 13"
August 9, 2017
"Librarian of Congress Names Tracy K. Smith Poet Laureate"
June 14, 2017
Audio and Video
"Staying Human: Poetry in the Age of Technology" (1:21:54)
April 18, 2019
"Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith"
From the Catbird Seat podcast, April 25, 2018 (36:03)
Tracy K. Smith: Poet Laureate Inaugural Reading (1:07:10)
September 13, 2017
"The Good Life"
Poem 002 on the Poetry 180 website
"New Laureate Ready To Take Poetry on Road"
Library of Congress Gazette, July 28, 2017
"Hayden Names Tracy K. Smith Poet Laureate"
Library of Congress Gazette, June 16, 2017
The Library of Congress holds a number of books by Tracy K. Smith in our physical collections. To identify books edited or written by Smith, you can search the Library's online
catalog under the following author heading:
Smith, Tracy K.
The Library's subscription databases, available only to on-campus users, include many articles, interviews, essays, and other materials about Smith's life and work. Contact the Digital Reference Team if you'd like to learn more about these resources.
Biographical Information, Poetry
Academy of American Poets
Offers a biography of Smith, the text of her poem "Duende ," her recipe for old fashioned tea cakes , a conversation between Smith and Elizabeth Alexander , and a short essay by Smith on Federico Garcia Lorca and duende .
Blue Flower Arts
Biography of Smith. Note: Contact Blue Flower Arts if you would like to inquire about scheduling Smith for a reading or event.
Biography of Smith along with ten of her poems.
Princeton University Faculty Page
Biography, contact information, courses taught, and links to Smith in the news.
Selected Prize Citations
- Hall-Kenyon Prize in American Poetry, 2018
- American Ingenuity Award for Education, 2018
- Robert Creeley Award, 2016
- American Poets Prize (Academy of American Poets), 2014
- Pulitzer Prize Winner in Poetry, 2012 (for Life on Mars)
- Essence Literary Award, 2009
- James Laughlin Award, 2006 (for Duende)
- Whiting Award, 2005
- Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, 2004
- Cave Canem Poetry Prize, 2002 (for The Body's Question)
Interviews, Articles, and Conversations
"Tracy K. Smith, Poet Laureate, Brings Her Podcast to Public Radio"
The New York Times, January 11, 2019
"Suddenly, Poets Are More Willing to Address Public Concerns. The Poet Laureate Explores Why, and How" (by Tracy K. Smith)
The New York Times, December 10, 2018
"U.S. Poet Laureate Named 2018 Winner of Hall-Kenyon Prize in American Poetry"
New Hampshire Public Radio, November 14, 2018
"U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Looks for the Deep, Often Hard, Truth in Her Work"
Pittsburgh Current, November 6, 2018
"Tracy K. Smith’s Civic Vision"
Belt Magazine, November 5, 2018
"America’s Poet Laureate Shares a Poem for You to Take to the Polls"
PBS NewsHour, November 5, 2018
"A Conversation about America, Told through Poetry"
Portland Press Herald, October 30, 2018
"A Conversation with U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith"
NJ.com, October 15, 2018
"'Bridging the Apparent Divide': Poet Laureate, Pulitzer Prize Winner Tracy K. Smith Shares Her Perspective on Poetry"
The Cavalier Daily, October 4, 2018
"Tracy K. Smith’s Poetry of Desire"
The New Yorker, October 1, 2018
"On My Radar: Tracy K Smith’s Cultural Highlights"
The Guardian, September 16, 2018
"US Poet Laureate Smith Gives Reading to Full House"
Indiana Daily Student, September 7, 2018
"Tracy K. Smith Explores Christianity’s Connection to Poetry"
The Observer, September 6, 2018
"U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Brings Poetry to the People"
Juneau Empire, August 31, 2018
"Tracy K. Smith Goes Operatic With 'Castor and Patience'"
Colorlines, July 11, 2018
"Tracy K. Smith On The Politics Of Poetry"
Nylon, July 5, 2018
"Media Covers Wellesley’s Commencement and Speaker, U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith"
Wellesley College News, June 7, 2018
"US Poet Laureate Smith Tells Graduates to be Guided by Love"
Tampa Bay Times, June 1, 2018
"Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Talks Process with Hopkins Students"
New Haven Register, May 4, 2018
"U.S. Poet Laureate Gets Real and Inspires Norwalk Students"
The Hour, May 3, 2018
"Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s Portrait of America Is a Devastating Must-Read"
Mother Jones, May/June 2018
"The Poet Laureate Wants You to Read This Poem"
PBS NewsHour, April 30, 2018
"Tracy K. Smith and Jacqueline Woodson Talk Reading, Race and Spreading the Gospel of Literature"
The New York Times, April 19, 2018
"U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Named Wellesley’s 2018 Commencement Speaker"
Wellelsley College, April 13, 2018
"Meet Tracy K. Smith, the Nation’s Poet Laureate"
Roll Call, April 12, 2008
"Tracy K. Smith, America’s
Poet Laureate, Is a Woman With a Mission"
The New York Times Magazine, April 10, 2018
"Powell's Interview: Tracy K. Smith, Author of 'Wade in the Water'"
PowellsBooks.Blog, April 10, 2018
"Q&A: U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith on CPCC’s Sensoria, Her New Role"
Charlotte Magazine, April 9, 2018
"Poet Laureate Shares Work with Students"
Wardlaw + Hartridge School News, April 5, 2018
"Wade in the Water: Tracy K. Smith On Her New Collection of Poetry"
Washington Square Review, April 3, 2018
"9 Questions With Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith"
Time, April 2, 2018
"U.S. Poet Laureate visits Southeastern"
The Lion's Roar, March 29, 2018
"U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Discusses Her New Collection, Wade in the Water"
Newsday, March 27, 2018
"Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith on America’s Troubled Racial History"
Vogue, March 22, 2018
"US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith to Serve Second Term"
Associated Press, March 22, 2018
"Tracy K. Smith: By the Book"
The New York Times, March 20, 2018
"U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Picks 25 Poems For National Poetry Month"
BroadwayWorld.com, March 19, 2018
"Poets Laureate Share Writing with Glasgow"
Bowling Green Daily News,
March 16, 2018
"U.S. poet laureate makes stop in Lake City"
The Morning News (SCNow.com), Februarty 23, 2018
"U.S. Poet Laureate Talks Free Speech, Visiting Rural Areas"
The Emory Wheel, February 21, 2018
"The Stars Will Be Out for U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy Smith at the Honolulu Museum of Art"
Honolulu, February 8, 2018
"Author Tracy K. Smith Finds Poetry in All Our Days"
Honolulu Star Advertiser, February 4, 2018
"3 Writing Tips from the U.S. Poet Laureate"
Art School Insights, California College of the Arts, January 30, 2018
"U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Brings Rural Reading Tour to Winter Words"
Glenwood Springs Post Independent, January 23, 2018
"US Poet Laureate Starts Rural Reading Tour in New Mexico"
U.S. News & World Report, January 12, 2018
"Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith to Aspiring Poets: 'Read against your taste'"
The Stanford Daily, November 2, 2017
"U.S. Poet Laureate Gives Poetry Reading in Riggs Library"
The Georgetown Voice, November 2, 2017
"Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith on the Power and Mystique of Metaphor"
John Hopkins University, October 25, 2017
"U.S Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Visits Penn State"
The Underground, October 23, 2017
"U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith on Chinese Poetry, Language, and the Allure of China"
SupChina, October 18, 2017
"U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize Winner to Give 2017 Emily Dickinson Lecture"
The Daily Collegian, October 12, 2017
"Interstellar Poet Laureate: Tracy K. Smith"
Tor.com, September 20, 2017
"Not Dead Yet, Poetry Due for Comeback"
Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 15, 2017
"New U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Reports for Duty"
The Washington Post, September 14, 2017
"Q&A: Tracy K. Smith"
Princeton Alumni Weekly, September 13, 2017
"Rhyme and Rhythm, Words and Wonder: Princeton’s Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith"
Princeton Magazine, September 2017
"Meet the Poetry Leader Americans Need Right Now"
The Tempest, August 6, 2017
"A Conversation with Tracy K. Smith"
The Adroit Journal, August 2017
"Interview with Tracy K. Smith"
Times Higher Education, July 20, 2017
"New Poet Laureate Challenges Humanity to Empathize"
The Washington Informer, July 12, 2017
"8 Tracy K. Smith Books To Help You Get To Know The New U.S. Poet Laureate"
Bustle, July 5, 2017
"Medgar Evers College Celebrates the Appointment of Tracy K Smith as US Poet Laureate"
Medgar Evers College, July 2017
"New US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Wwants to Reach beyond Poetry Fans"
Missoulian, June 28, 2017
"4 Poets You Need to Read, from New Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith"
PBS NewsHour, June 23, 2017
"Incoming Poet Laureate is Outgoing in Minneapolis Visit"
Artcetera blog, StarTribune, June 22, 2017
"Poet laureate Tracy K. Smith to headline Northwoods Writers Conference"
The Bemidji Pioneer, June 20, 2017
"Tracy K. Smith Named New U.S. Poet Laureate"
The Washington Post, June 14, 2017
"Tracy K. Smith Is the New Poet Laureate"
The New York Times, June 14, 2017
"Tracy K. Smith, New U.S. Poet Laureate, Calls Poems Her 'Anchor'"
NPR, June 14, 2017
"Pulitzer Prize Winner Tracy K. Smith is New US Poet Laureate"
The Associated Press, June 14, 2017
"Meet the New U.S. Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith"
Fortune, June 14, 2017
"Princeton professor Tracy K. Smith Named U.S. Poet Laureate"
Princeton University News, June 14, 2017
"For Newly Named U.S. Poet Laureate, the Power of Poetry is Opening Ourselves to Others"
PBS NewsHour, June 14, 2017
"Princeton's Tracy K. Smith Named U.S. Poet Laureate"
Philly.com, June 14, 2017
"Watch New U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Read Two of Her Poems"
PBS NewsHour, June 14, 2017
"Meet Our New U.S. Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith"
Jacket Copy, Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2017
"'Moving toward What I Don't Know': An Interview with Tracy K. Smith"
The Iowa Review, Fall 2016
"Tracy K. Smith: Our Best Selves Are Reserved for The Page"
Guernica, June 28, 2016
"Interview | Tracy K. Smith"
Cosmonauts Avenue, June 15, 2016
"Concrete as Vast as Space: An Interview with Tracy K. Smith"
Yale Literary Magazine, Fall 2015
"Tending the Writerly Self: An Interview with Tracy K. Smith"
Femmeliterate, August 18, 2015
"A Conversation with Tracy K. Smith ’94"
Harvard Magazine, April 9, 2015
"Tracy K. Smith’s Most Treasured Cooking Tool"
The New York Times, April 6, 2015
"Tracy K. Smith: No Secrets"
Barnes & Noble Review, April 1, 2015
"Poet Tracy K. Smith on Grief, God and Getting Hooked on Prose"
Time Out, April 1, 2015
"'That Email Changed My Life': Pulitzer-Prize Winning Poet Tracy K. Smith Celebrates Rolex Arts Initiative & Publication of Ordinary Light at the Harvard Club"
Wild River Review, April 2015
"Far From Ordinary: A Profile of Tracy K. Smith"
Poets & Writers, March/April 2015
"Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet Tracy K. Smith Talks about Inspiration, Personal Reflection and Recitation"
Nashville Scene, February 14, 2014
"'Life on Mars': Q&A with Pulitzer-Winning Poet Tracy K. Smith"
Space.com, May 4, 2012
"Interview with Tracy K. Smith – 'Poets are Lucky'"
Ploughshares, May 30, 2012
"Interview with Tracy K. Smith, Winner of 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry"
Writers' Block, April 17, 2012
"Poet Tracy K. Smith: Memory, Creation, Mentoring, and Mastery"
Wild River Review, November 2011
"The Rumpus Poetry Book Club Interviews Tracy K. Smith"
The Rumpus, June 10, 2011
"Tracy K. Smith"
PBS NewsHour, May 16, 2011
Thread Book Hour: U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith (41:41)
MPR News, Minnesota Public Radio, June 14, 2018
"U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith: 'Wade In The Water' Shares Voices Of The Underground Railroad" (18:00)
Radio Boston, WBUR, June 19, 2018
"How Do You Know If A Poem Is Good?" (47:10)
1A, WAMU, NPR, April 25, 2018
"U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Joins Detroit Today" (14:51)
Detroit Today, WDET, February 2, 2018
Tracy K. Smith (transcript) (28:55)
The Poet and the Poem, September 14, 2017
"How The U.S. Poet Laureate Finds Poetry In Justin Bieber"
WMOT Roots Radio, September 1, 2017
"New Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith" (49:00)
Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, WHYY, July 21, 2017
"U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Aims to Capture a Divided Nation" (07:30)
The Takeaway, WNYC, July 12, 2017
"Poet Laureate Hopes to Use Tenure to Promote Love and Understanding" (10:28)
NewsWorks Tonight, WHYY;FM, June 20, 2017
"Capitol Hill To Undergo Changing Of The Guard With New Poet Laureate" (03:55)
All Things Considered, NPR, June 17, 2017
"Think Poetry's Pretentious? America's New Poet Laureate Just Might Change Your Mind" (5:50)
North Carolina Public Radio,
June 16, 2017
"Tracy K. Smith Named U.S. Poet Laureate" (2:53)
Morning Edition, NPR, June 14, 2017
"Is 'Useful' Poetry the Answer to Political Discord?" (6:35)
North Carolina Public Radio,
February 8, 2017
"Tracy K. Smith on Life, Death, Poetry and Outer Space" (55:33)
Writers & Company, CBC Radio, May 29, 2016
Tracy K. Smith (28:27)
Words on a Wire, KTEP, June 28, 2015
"Does Poetry Still Matter? Yes Indeed, Says NPR NewsPoet" (5:47)
Weekend Edition Saturday, NPR, April 6, 2013
"US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Visits Kentucky" (27:35)
May 8, 2018
"Poets Laureate Rita Dove and Tracy K. Smith in Conversation" (28:18)
National Endowment for the Arts, March 22, 2018
"On the Podcast: US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith" (50:48)
Aspen Ideas Festival Blog, February 14, 2018
"The Poet: Tracy K. Smith" (48:09)
American Masters podcast, PBS, December 2017
Town Music Performance
February 24, 2016
Search results for Tracy K. Smith
"Tracy K. Smith on Wade in the Water: Poems at the 2018 National Book Festival" (15:34)
PBS Books YouTube Channel, September 1, 2018
"Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith on Making Poetry Accessible" (5:56)
CBS This Morning, July 27, 2017
"4 Poets You Need to Read, From New Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith" (03:08)
PBS NewsHour, June 23, 2017
"Breaking Down Tracy K. Smith’s Poem 'Solstice'" (2:52)
The New Yorker, March 6, 2017
"Tracy K. Smith on Ordinary Light: A Memoir" (11:50)
AWP Bookfair, February 11, 2017
"The Spirit That Is Charged: A Conversation about Poetry and Friendship with Tina Chang and Tracy K. Smith" (1:36:17)
Cave Canem, May 19, 2016
"Ordinary Light" (20:27)
Book TV, C-SPAN, March 3, 2015
"Lunch Poems - Tracy K. Smith" (30:55)
University of California, Berkeley, December 4, 2008
Articles and Essays by Tracy K. Smith
"What Memoir can Do that Poetry Can't"
Literary Hub, April 16, 2015
"Wipe that Smirk Off York Poem"
The New York Times, March 16, 2015
"Why Poetry Is Essential to Democracy"
The Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2012
Wade in the Water (2018)
Ordinary Light: A Memoir (2015)
Life on Mars (2011)
The Body's Question (2003)
Tracy K. Smith in the News
News search on Tracy K. Smith
Twitter results for Tracy K. Smith