August 9, 2018 U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith to Launch Fall Tour with New Anthology 'American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time'
Smith to Continue Rural Outreach with Visits to Alaska, South Dakota, Maine and Louisiana
Press Contact: Brett Zongker, (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Robert Casper, (202) 707-1308
Website: American Conversations: Celebrating Poems in Rural Communities
U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith will unveil a new anthology featuring the works of 50 living American poets of different ages and backgrounds as she expands an effort to connect with rural communities and engage Americans in conversations about poetry.
“American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time” will be published in September by Graywolf Press in association with the Library of Congress with an introduction by Smith. Poems that Smith selected for the anthology offer 50 different outlooks on America, including stories of loss, experiences of immigrants, outcries of injustice and poems that evoke history and celebrate America’s diversity. The book will be published Sept. 4.
The anthology is a centerpiece of Smith’s second-term project as the nation’s poet laureate for 2018-2019. For her project, titled “American Conversations: Celebrating Poems in Rural Communities,” Smith will travel to rural communities and give away copies of the anthology, which she will use to spark conversations about the power of poetry. This fall’s visits will include Alaska in August, South Dakota in October, Maine in November and Louisiana in December, the Library announced today. Smith also will appear at the National Book Festival in Washington on Sept. 1. The project, co-sponsored by the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center and the affiliate Centers for the Book, will be featured on the Library’s read.gov website.
“I'm thrilled for the opportunity to spend a second term taking part in conversations about poetry and life in rural America,” Smith said. “In this upcoming year, I'll be able to share copies of ‘American Journal,’ which I hope might serve to foster ongoing conversations about poems and poetry between people of all ages.”
“American Journal” takes its title from a poem by Robert Hayden, the first African American appointed as the U.S. Poet Laureate. Poets included in the anthology include past Poets Laureate Natasha Trethewey and Charles Wright, as well as award-winning poets Mark Doty, Ross Gay, Terrance Hayes, Laura Kasischke, Mary Szybist and others.
“These fifty poems – culled from living American poets of different ages, backgrounds and aesthetic approaches, and with different views of what it feels like to be alive – welcome you to listen and be surprised, amused, consoled,” Smith wrote in the introduction. “There’s something else these fifty poems are up to. As the title ‘American Journal’ suggests, they are contemplating what it feels like to live, work, love, strive, raise a family, and survive many kinds of loss in this vast and varied nation.”
American Conversations: Celebrating Poems in Rural Communities
Since the Librarian of Congress appointed her the 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, Smith has focused on connecting with rural communities. This past spring, she visited New Mexico, South Carolina and Kentucky as part of a pilot project, and for her second term the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center is working with state Centers for the Book, state humanities councils and congressional offices across the country to coordinate additional visits. During her visits, Smith will read selections of her own poetry and pieces from “American Journal” and will engage audiences in discussions of the poems.
The Library announced her fall tour dates, including several public programs:
- Alaska: Aug. 27-29 – Smith will visit three of Alaska’s five regions and will host these public events:
- Aug. 28 at 5:30 p.m. at the Kuskokwim Consortium Library in Bethel
- Aug. 29 at 5 p.m. (reception) and 6 p.m. reading at the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives and Museum in Juneau
- South Dakota: Oct. 4-5
- Maine: Nov. 1-2
- Louisiana: Dec. 14-15
For more information about Smith’s tour, visit read.gov/americanconversations.
About the Poet Laureate
Smith is the author of four books of poetry published by Graywolf Press, including “Wade in the Water” in April 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.
Born in Falmouth, Massachusetts, in 1972 and raised in Fairfield, California, Smith earned a B.A. in English and American literature and Afro-American studies from Harvard University and an M.F.A. 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, at the University of Pittsburgh and at Columbia University. She is currently the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor in the Humanities and director of the creative writing program at Princeton University.
The Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1937 when Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library. Since then, many of the nation’s most eminent poets have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of Public Law 99-194 (Dec. 20, 1985), as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry – a position which the law states “is equivalent to that of Poet Laureate of the United States.”
During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. For more information on the Poet Laureate, visit loc.gov/poetry/laureate.html.
Congress created the Library’s Center for the Book in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books and reading. It has become a national force for reading and literacy promotion with affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The affiliates meet every spring at the Library of Congress to exchange ideas. For more information, visit read.gov.
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States – and extensive materials from around the world – both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov, and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.