(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.
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, […]
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 […]
Poets Nathaniel Mackey and Claudia Rankine accepted 2016 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prizes for Poetry at an evening event at the Library of Congress on April 20. The Bobbitt Prize recognizes the lifetime achievement of an American poet or a distinguished book of poetry written by an American […]
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. […]
(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 […]
Just when you thought the holiday season was over, Carnival Season is excitedly waiting at its heels. I admit, my Christmas Tree and other decorations are still up, not only because I am a tad lazy when it comes to taking them down but also because traditionally they should be taken down on Twelfth […]
(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 […]
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 […]
Last month, the Library announced the 2016 winners of the Letters About Literature contest, a national reading and writing program that 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. Research shows that students benefit most from literacy instruction when […]