The Library of Congress announced Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and educator Tracy K. Smith’s appointment as the U.S. poet laureate today (June 14).
“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,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden says in a statement. “With directness and deftness, she contends with the heavens or plumbs our inner depths—all to better understand what makes us most human.”
“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,” Smith says in the same statement. “I am eager to share the good news of poetry with readers and future readers across this marvelously diverse country.”
Smith is the third Black woman to hold the position, after Natasha Trethewey and Rita Dove. She earned a 2012 Pulitzer Prize for her 2011 poetry collection, “Life on Mars,” which tackles human mortality in the age of space exploration. The collection paid tribute to her father, an engineer who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope. Smith is currently on leave from her position as Princeton University’s director of creative writing.