Library of Congress

Poetry and Literature

The Library of Congress > Poetry & Literature > Current Poet Laureate: Tracy K. Smith
{ site_name: 'Poetry', subscribe_url:'/share/sites/library-of-congress/poetry.php' }
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.

Tracy K. Smith was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts in 1972, and raised in Fairfield, California. She is the author of three books of poetry, including 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.

“It gives me great pleasure to appoint Tracy K. Smith, a poet of searching,” 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.”

On being appointed to serve as Poet Laureate, Smith said, “I am profoundly honored. As someone who has been sustained by poems and poets, I understand the powerful and necessary role poetry can play in sustaining a rich inner life and fostering a mindful, empathic and resourceful culture. I am eager to share the good news of poetry with readers and future-readers across this marvelously diverse country.”

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.