The Library of Congress has named Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tracy K. Smith the United States Poet Laureate.
Smith, who is only 45, is America’s 22nd Poet Laureate. She will be following Juan Felipe Herrera, who held the position for two years.
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In a press release, Smith says:
“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.”
Carla Hayden is the Librarian of Congress, and she put out a statement explaining her decision:
“It gives me great pleasure to appoint Tracy K. Smith, a poet of searching…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.”
Smith is the author of three books of poetry and one memoir. In 2011, she won the Pulitzer Prize for her 2011 book of poetry Life on Mars. She is also the director of the creative writing program at Princeton University.
So what will Smith be doing as Poet Laureate? Well, there are no official duties; however, there is an expectation that the Poet Laureate will do work to spread awareness around poetry. This is something Smith attends to do. She told NPR:
“I think the responsibility really is to just help raise the awareness of poetry and its value in our culture,” Smith tells NPR. “To me that means talking to people — getting off the usual path of literary festivals and university reading series and talking to people who might not even yet be readers of poetry.”
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