The Library of Congress has named Tracy K. Smith its new poet laureate, the nation’s highest honor in that field. With the appointment, announced on Wednesday, Ms. Smith will take on a role held by some of the country’s most revered poets, among them Rita Dove, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, W. S. Merwin, Charles Simic and most recently, Juan Felipe Herrera. Ms. Smith said she planned to use the position to be a literary evangelist of sorts, by visiting small towns and rural areas to hold poetry events.
Tracy K. Smith is a professor of creative writing at Princeton University and the author of three acclaimed books of poetry, including most recently Life on Mars, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, a New York Times Notable Book, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and a New Yorker, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year.
Her first prose work, Ordinary Light, was voted One of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Denver Post, and Oprah.com. In Ordinary Light, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Tracy K. Smith tells her remarkable story, giving us a quietly potent memoir that explores her coming-of-age and the meaning of home against a complex backdrop of race, faith, and the unbreakable bond between a mother and daughter. Here is the story of a young artist struggling to fashion her own understanding of belief, loss, history, and what it means to be black in America.