The Library of Congress has selected Tracy K. Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and a professor at Princeton University, to be the twenty-second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2017–2018. Smith succeeds Juan Felipe Herrera, and will assume her responsibilities in the fall.
“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,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “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, 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 also penned the 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.
“I am profoundly honored,” Smith said of the honor. “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.”
The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry is a position that has existed since 1937, when Archer M. Huntington endowed the chair of poetry at the Library of Congress. During his or her term, the poet laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.