Monday, January 29, 2018

Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith is the author of three books of poetry: The Body's Question (2003), which won the Cave Canem prize for the best first book by an African-American poet; Duende (2007), winner of the James Laughlin Award and the Essense Literary Award; Life on Mars (2011), winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; and Wade in the Water (forthcoming, April 2018). In 2014 she was awarded the Academy of American Poets fellowship. She has also written a memoir, Ordinary Light (2015), which was a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction.

Tracy K. Smith is a native of Falmouth, Massachusetts. She was raised in Fairfield, California in a family with "deep roots" in Alabama. She is the youngest of five children. Her mother was a teacher and her father an engineer  who worked on the Hubble telescope. Smith became interested in writing and poetry early, reading Emily Dickinson and Mark Twain in elementary school; Dickinson's poems in particular struck Smith as working like "magic", she wrote in her memoir Ordinary Light, with the rhyme and meter making Dickinson's verses feel almost impossible not to commit to memory. Smith then composed a short poem entitled "Humor" and showed it to her fifth-grade teacher, who encouraged her to keep writing. The work of Elizabeth Bishop, Seamus Heaney, Philip Larkin, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Rita Dove also became significant influences.

Smith received her A.B. from Harvard University, where she studied with Helen Vendler, Lucie Brock-Broido, Henri Cole and Seamus Heaney.  While in Cambridge, Smith joined the Dark Room Collective.  She graduated in 1994, then earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Columbia University in 1997. From 1997 to 1999, she was a Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University.

Smith lives in Princeton, NJ with her husband, Raphael Allison, and their three children

Smith is the recipient of the 2014 Academy of American Poets Fellowship. About Tracy K. Smith, Academy of American Poets Chancellor Toi Derricotte said: “The surfaces of a Tracy K. Smith poem are beautiful and serene, but underneath, there is always a sense of an unknown vastness. Her poems take the risk of inviting us to imagine, as the poet does, what it is to travel in another person’s shoes. The Academy is fortunate to be able to confer this fitting recognition on one of the most important poets of our time.”

In June 2017 Poet and educator Tracy K. Smith was named the U.S. Poet Laureate. Smith, whose appointment was announced by the Library of Congress , will serve as the country’s official poet for a one-year term.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said. “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.”

         Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Inaugural Reading

        Tracy K. Smith Reads From 'Life of Mars'

        Tracy K. Smith, "Ordinary Light"

    A Conversation with U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith

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