Tracy K. Smith

Poems by Tracy K. Smith

excerpt of "The Nobodies"

excerpt of "Duende"

A Hunger So Honed

  Tracy K. Smith

As a student, Tracy K. Smith learned from poets Seamus Heaney, Linda Gregg, Mark Doty and Henri Cole, but she singles out Lucie Brock-Broido as her mentor in seeking what Brock-Broido identifies as being central to the art of poetry—the magic that beckons the poet to discover the poem that is asking to be written.  Smith's ability to confront grief and loss, historical intersections with race and family, and the threshold between childhood and adulthood, prompted Yusef Komunyakaa to write, “Here’s a voice that can weave beauty and terror into one breath, and whose unguarded revelations are never verbal striptease.” Joy Harjo has called Smith’s “stunning” work “a true merging of the ancient roots of poetry with the language of an age of a different kind of sense.”

Smith received degrees in English and Creative Writing from Harvard and Columbia, and went on to be a Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University.  She received the Cave Canem Prize for her first book, The Body’s Question (Graywolf Press 2003), in which she focused on the desire to engage with the “details and events that seemed somehow unresolved” in her life.

Her second book, Duende (Graywolf Press 2007) won the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets.  Charting a new course in Duende, she homes in on the marginalized and the unknown, often relying on global news reports for inspiration.  The Village Voice found these poems more “ragged around the edges,” praising Smith’s reluctance to finish on “a knowing note.”  There are love poems and divorce poems.  There are poems incorporating scraps of the US Constitution, a captivity narrative, an Eisenhower speech on domino theory and Frank Zappa lyrics. Smith’s tone is ruminative throughout, but grounded in the details of everyday life.

Recipient of awards from the Rona Jaffe, Mrs. Giles Whiting, and Ludwig Vogelstein Foundations, Smith is currently an assistant professor of Creative Writing at Princeton University and lives in Brooklyn with her husband.






    Poetry Center Reading:
    Spring 2010