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In 1936, the philanthropist, Archer M. Huntington, provided an endowment for the “maintenance of a chair of Poetry of the English language in the Library of Congress.” When Archibald MacLeish became Librarian of Congress in 1939, he made the position rotating. Beginning in 1959, Poet Laureates have typically served a second one-year term.
On March 22, 2018, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden reappointed Tracy K. Smith to her second term as the Library’s Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. She is the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor in the Humanities, and Director of the Creative Writing Program, at Princeton University and the author of 4 books of poetry and a memoir.
During her first term, Smith focused on outreach programs to rural areas and places where poets rarely present their work. She plans to continue engaging people in rural communities across the United States.
“Duende,” that dark and elusive force described by Federico García Lorca, is the creative and ecstatic power an artist seeks to channel from within. It can lead the artist toward revelation, but it must also, Lorca says, accept and even serenade the possibility of death. Tracy K. Smith’s bold second poetry collection explores history and the intersections of folk traditions, political resistance, and personal survival. “Duende” gives passionate testament to suppressed cultures, and allows them to sing.
With allusions to David Bowie and interplanetary travel, Life on Mars imagines a soundtrack for the universe to accompany the discoveries, failures, and oddities of human existence. In these brilliant new poems, Tracy K. Smith envisions a sci-fi future sucked clean of any real dangers, contemplates the dark matter that keeps people both close and distant, and revisits the kitschy concepts like “love” and “illness” now relegated to the Museum of Obsolescence. These poems reveal the realities of life lived here, on the ground, where a daughter is imprisoned in the basement by her own father, where celebrities and pop stars walk among us, and where the poet herself loses her father, one of the engineers who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope. With this remarkable third collection, Smith establishes herself among the best poets of her generation.
Since it’s publication in 2011, “Life on Mars” has received much deserved critical praise, won numerous awards and has appeared on quite a few notable book lists:
A Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, using her signature voice—inquisitive, lyrical and wry—mulls over what it means to be a citizen, a mother and an artist in a culture arbitrated by wealth, men and violence, boldly tying America’s modern moment both to our nation’s fraught founding history and to a sense of the spirit, the everlasting.
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the International Latino Book Award, this amazing collection of poetry provides a small glimpse into the genius of a truly talented author and activist.
A widely celebrated collection of poems selected by Rita Dove, former U.S. Poet Laureate, for the 1999 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Trethewey draws moving domestic portraits of families, past and present, caught in the act of earning a living and managing their households.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet describes his journey to understand himself and his art form and describes the events, memorable teachers and lifelong friends who influenced him as well as the other poets he admires, including William Carlos Williams, John Keats and William Wordsworth.
The final book of poems from the National Book Award awardee and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who died in early 2015 includes his lyrical takes on his family and childhood, the power of dreaming and poems about his heroes.
According to the Poetry Foundation, this collection is one of Merwin’s most critically acclaimed and influential works of poetry. When first published in 1967, W.S. Merwin’s “The Lice” was ground-breaking. Its visionary urgency directly engaged the nexus of aesthetics and morality, exerting an immediate and lasting effect on the writing and reading of poetry. Like all great art, this monumental work continues to inspire.