March 14, 2019 U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith to Conclude Her Laureateship in Conversation with State, City and County Poets Laureate
Smith Concludes Second Term as Nation’s Poet Laureate in April
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The Library of Congress will honor Tracy K. Smith, who is concluding her two terms as the nation’s poet laureate, with an event exploring her outreach to rural communities and the roles of state, city and county poets laureate across the country.
Smith will close the Library’s spring literary season on Monday, April 15, at 7 p.m. with the program titled “American Celebration” in the Coolidge Auditorium on the ground floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free, but tickets are required. For tickets, please visit this ticketing site: plclosing.eventbrite.com. The event will also be live-streamed on the Library’s Facebook page at facebook.com/libraryofcongress and its YouTube site (with captions) at youtube.com/LOC.
Smith will join in conversation with Brooklyn Poet Laureate Tina Chang, Hawaii Poet Laureate Kealoha, Indiana Poet Laureate Adrian Matejka, Oklahoma State Poet Laureate Jeanetta Calhoun Mish and Clark County, Nevada, Poet Laureate Vogue Robinson. The discussion will be moderated by Jennifer Benka, president and executive director of the Academy of American Poets, a presenting sponsor for the event. Book sales and signings will follow.
About the Speakers
- Tracy K. Smith 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); and “The Body’s Question” (2003). 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. She is currently the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor in the Humanities and director of the creative writing program at Princeton University.
- Tina Chang was raised in New York City. She is the first woman to be named Poet Laureate of Brooklyn and is the author of the collections of poetry “Hybrida” (2019), “Of Gods & Strangers” (2011) and “Half-Lit Houses” (2004). She is also the co-editor of the W.W. Norton anthology “Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond” (2008). She teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence College and she is also a member of the international writing faculty at the City University of Hong Kong.
- Kealoha is the first Poet Laureate of Hawaii. He is the first poet in Hawaii's history to perform at a governor's inauguration, was selected as a master artist for a National Endowment for the Arts program, and received a Community Inspiration Program grant from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. He graduated from MIT with a degree in nuclear physics (and a minor in writing), served as a business consultant in San Francisco and as a surf instructor prior to becoming a professional poet in 2002.
- Adrian Matejka is the Poet Laureate of Indiana. Matejka was born in Nuremberg, Germany and grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a graduate of Indiana University and the M.F.A. program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He is the author of “The Devil’s Garden”(Alice James Books, 2003), “Mixology” (Penguin, 2009) and “The Big Smoke” (Penguin, 2013), which was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. His most recent book, “Map to the Stars,” was published in 2017. He teaches at Indiana University in Bloomington.
- Jeanetta Calhoun Mish is a scholar, poet, prose writer and the 2017-18 Oklahoma State Poet Laureate. Mish’s most recent books are “What I Learned at the War,” a poetry collection (West End Press, 2016) and “Oklahomeland: Essays” (Lamar University Press, 2015). Mish is also director of The Red Earth Creative Writing M.F.A. at Oklahoma City University where she also serves as advisor to Red Earth Review and as a faculty mentor in writing pedagogy, professional writing and the craft of poetry.
- Vogue Robinson is the second person in Nevada to hold the title of Clark County Poet Laureate. She currently serves as executive director of Poetry Promise, which develops community-based programs to promote poetry and the literary arts. Robinson is a graduate of San Diego State University where she earned her B.A. in English. Her work has been published in “Vogue 3:16 Selected Poems,” “Clark, Red Rock Review,” and “Legs of Tumbleweeds, Wings of Lace: An Anthology of Literature by Nevada Women.”
Later in April, Smith will appear in conversation with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture with Schomburg Director Kevin Young. The April 29 program will focus on the future of black librarianship and inquiry into the current cultural moment. More information on registration is available from the Schomburg Center.
During her two years as the nation’s 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, Smith focused on connecting with rural communities through her project “American Conversations: Celebrating Poems in Rural Communities.” In 2017 and 2018, she made visits to New Mexico, South Carolina, Kentucky, Alaska, South Dakota, Maine and Louisiana as part of the project.
Smith also recently launched a new podcast and public radio feature titled “The Slowdown” to encourage listeners to make a daily space for poetry in their busy lives. The five-minute weekday program is now heard on 11 public radio stations across the country.
In 2018, Smith also unveiled a new anthology featuring the works of 50 living American poets of different ages and backgrounds. “American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time” was published by Graywolf Press in association with the Library of Congress.
“We are thrilled with the extensive outreach Tracy K. Smith has pursued during her two busy years as our nation’s Poet Laureate. She has shared the power of poetry, history and culture in conversations with American communities both large and small – and with radio and podcast listeners nationwide through ‘The Slowdown,’” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “She has shown us, once again, that poetry and literature are ever central to our lives.”
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. The Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. For more information, visit loc.gov/poetry.
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