Welcome to our New Poet Laureate!

(The following is a repost from the blog “From the Catbird Seat: Poetry and Literature at the Library of Congress.”)

Tracy K. Smith. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Today the Library of Congress announced the appointment of the 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, Tracy K. Smith. Following is an interview that Poetry and Literature Center digital content manager Anne Holmes conducted with Smith via e-mail.

What was it like to get the call from the Librarian, asking you to be the next poet laureate?

I was genuinely stunned. As someone who has been so deeply inspired and instructed by the work of former poets laureate—from Robert Frost to Gwendolyn Brooks, and Elizabeth Bishop to Natasha Trethewey—it’s an honor and an affirmation I couldn’t have anticipated.

What about the laureateship most excites you?

I am excited about the kinds of social divides that poetry may be able not just to cross but to mend. One of my favorite things in the world is to sit and talk quietly about the things poems cause me to notice and remember, the feelings they teach me to recognize, the deep curiosity about other people’s lives that they foster. I am excited about carrying this conversation beyond literary festivals and university classrooms, and finding ways that poems might genuinely bring together people who imagine they have nothing to say to one another.

How does poetry inform the way you understand and navigate the world?

For me, reading and writing poetry really does foster and sustain an inner life. Reading and writing poems requires me to slow things down, to step outside of the constant forward churn of day-to-day life. It allows me to actually stop and listen to small details, quiet voices and fleeting thoughts, allowing them to take on greater weight, greater relevance. Poems invite me to care about places and lives separated from me by time, distance, and culture; they foster empathy, curiosity, humility; they assure me that my perspective and my certainties are matched by countless others, all richly complex, all worthy of consideration.


Pic of the Week: Poet Laureate Celebration

The Library hosted a day of festivities on April 26 to honor Juan Felipe Herrera as he concluded his second term as poet laureate consultant in poetry. Titled “Speak the People/the Spark/el Poema,” the celebration began with a choral performance by the Fresno State Chamber Singers from Fresno, California, Herrera’s home town. In the evening, […]

Join the Celebration: Library to Livestream Events Honoring Poet Laureate

The Library of Congress will honor Juan Felipe Herrera, who is concluding his second term as the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, with celebratory events on Wednesday, April 26. The events will be streamed live on the Library’s Facebook page and its YouTube site. Titled “Speak the People/the Spark/el Poema,” the celebration will kick off at noon with a […]

National Poetry Month: New Recordings Uploaded to Recorded Poetry and Literature Archive

The following is a guest post by Anastasia Nikolis, a graduate student intern in the Poetry and Literature Center and a doctoral candidate in the English department at the University of Rochester. Happy National Poetry Month! I hope you are all as excited to celebrate as we are here at the Poetry and Literature Center. […]

New Online: The Walt Whitman Papers in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection

(The following was written by Barbara Bair, historian in the Library’s Manuscript Division.) As a special collections repository, the Library of Congress holds the largest collection of Walt Whitman materials anywhere in the world. The Manuscript Division has already made available online the Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman Papers and the Walt Whitman […]

Rare Book of the Month: “I am Anne Rutledge…”

(The following is a guest blog post written by Elizabeth Gettins, Library of Congress digital library specialist.) This week, we not only celebrate the birthday of author Edgar Lee Masters (Aug. 23, 1868) but also observe the untimely death of Ann Rutledge (Aug. 25, 1835), who figured in his best-known work. Masters spent his childhood […]

Letters About Literature: Dear Dorothy Parker

We’re winding down our blog feature highlighting the 2016 Letters About Literature contest with winners from Level 3 (grades 9-12). The contest asks young people in grades 4 through 12 to write to an author (living or deceased) about how his or her book affected their lives. Today we feature National Prize-winner Sara Lurie of Colorado, who wrote […]