Tracy K. Smith, United States Poet Laureate, to Give Emily Dickinson Lecture

United States Poet Laureate, Pulitzer Prize Winner, and National Book Award finalist Tracy K. Smith will offer a reading at Penn State as this year’s Emily Dickinson Lecturer. The reading will be held at the Nittany Lion Inn on Thursday, October 19, at 7:30 pm. This reading is free and open to the public.

U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith (Photo credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

Smith is the author of several collections of poems, including The Body’s Question (2003), Duende (2007), and Life on Mars (2011), which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and was selected as a New York Times Notable Book. The collection draws on sources as disparate as Arthur C. Clarke and David Bowie, and is in part an elegiac tribute to her late father, an engineer who worked on the Hubble Telescope. Her memoir Ordinary Light (2015), in many ways an elegy for her mother, was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Nonfiction and was selected as a Notable Book by the New York Times and Washington Post.

Her poetry collection, Wade in the Water (forthcoming from Graywolf Press in April 2018), includes “found poems” constructed from archival letters that African American veterans sent to President Lincoln asking for pensions they were owed.

Of her collection Life on Mars, Joel Brouwer of the New York Times writes, “Smith shows herself to be a poet of extraordinary range and ambition. It’s not easy to be so convincing in both the grand gesture and the reverent contemplation. Life on Mars first sends us out into the magnificent chill of the imagination and then returns us to ourselves, both changed and consoled.”

Smith is the director of the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University. While Smith primarily writes poetry and memoir, she has recently served as librettist on two operas, one of which focuses on slavery “and how it shapes our sense of what is possible for moment to moment in our everyday lives,” Smith says.

The Emily Dickinson Lectureship in American Poetry is made possible through the generosity of Penn State Alumni George and Barbara Kelly. Additional support for the event comes from the Penn State Department of English.

 

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