Tracy K. Smith Is on a Mission

Posted on May 21, 2018

by Jan C

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.

Learn More About Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith, Current Poet Laureate

Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith: Online Resources

Tracy K. Smith, America’s Poet Laureate, Is A Woman With A Mission

Books by Tracy K. Smith: The 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States

Duende by Tracy K. Smith

Duende: poems” by Tracy K. Smith

Also available in eAudio.

“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.

Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith

Life on Mars” by Tracy K. Smith

Also available in eAudio.

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:

Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize

One of the 100 Notable Books of 2011 – “New York Times Sunday Book Review

Editor’s Choice List for 2011 – “New York Times Sunday Book Review

One of the Reviewer’s Favorites from 2011 – “The New Yorker

One of the Best Poetry Books of 2011 – “Library Journal” and “Publishers Weekly

Ordinary Light by Tracy K. Smith

Ordinary Light: A Memoir” by Tracy K.Smith

Also available in eBook.

An acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning poet explores coming-of-age and the meaning of home against a complex backdrop of race, faith and the unbreakable bond between a mother and daughter.

Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith

Wade in the Water: Poems” by Tracy K. Smith

Also available in eAudio.

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.

Learn More About Past Poet Laureates

Juan Felipe Herrera
U.S. Poet Laureate, 2015-2017

Juan Felipe Herrera: Poet Laureate from 2015-2017

Library of Congress

Academy of America Poets

Poetry Foundation

The roots of a thousand embraces : dialogues / Juan Felipe Herrera

The Roots of a Thousand Embraces : Dialogues” by Juan Felipe Herrera

In 40 cantos, the poet embarks on a journey of discovery into the metaphysical meaning of Frida Kahlo’s artistic life.

Half of the world in light : new and selected poems / Juan Felipe Herrera

Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems” by Juan Felipe Herrera

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.

Charles Wright
U.S. Poet Laureate, 2014-2015

Charles Wright: Poet Laureate from 2014-2015

Library of Congress

Academy of American Poets

Poetry Foundation

Caribou by Charles Wright

Caribou” by Charles Wright

A collection by the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award and other prestigious accolades meditates on life and nature while exploring the author’s restless pursuit of a divine reality.

Black Zodiac by Charles Wright

Black Zodiac” by Charles Wright

A well-known anthology of poetry, which also won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The poems in this collection lyrically comtemplate the themes of faith, religion, heritage and morality.

Natasha Trethewey
U.S. Poet Laureate, 2012-2014

Natasha Trethewey: Poet Laureate from 2012-2014

Library of Congress

Academy of American Poets

Poetry Foundation

Thrall : poems by Natasha Trethewey

Thrall: poems” by Natasha Trethewey

Collects the author’s poems as she reflects on her own interracial ancestry, her estrangement from her father, and their place in the history of race in America.

Domestic work : poems / by Natasha Trethewey ; selected and introduced by Rita Dove

Domestic Work : Poems” by Natasha Trethewey

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.

Philip Levine
U.S. Poet Laureate, 2011-2012

Philip Levine: Poet Laureate from 2011-2012

Library of Congress

Academy of American Poets

Poetry Foundation

My lost poets : a life in poetry by Philip Levine

My Lost Poets” by Philip Levine

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 last shift : poems by Philip Levine ; edited by Edward Hirsch

The Last Shift” by Philip Levine

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.

W.S. Merwin
U.S. Poet Laureate, 2010-2011

W.S. Merwin: Poet Laureate from 2010-2011

Library of Congress

Academy of American Poets

Poetry Foundation

Garden Time by M.S. Merwin

Garden Time” by W.S.Merwin

Shares poems from the author about longing, loss, and the unanswerable questions of the world.

The Lice : Poems by W.S. Merwin

The Lice” by W.S. Merwin

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.

Did you like this blog post? Keep up to date with all of our posts by subscribing to the Library’s newsletters!

Keep your reading list updated with our book lists. Our staff love to read and they’ll give you the scoop on new tv-series inspired titles, hobbies, educational resources, pop culture, current events, and more!

Looking for more great titles? Get personalized recommendations from our librarians with this simple form.