Tracy K. Smith, the 22nd Poet Laureate of the U.S. and Director of Princeton University's Creative Writing Program, will visit Princeton Day School on Friday, January 4, 2019. Smith will host poetry readings and presentations for Lower, Middle and Upper School students and faculty throughout the day thanks to PDS's signature Imagine the Possibilities (ITP) visiting artist program. The School's ITP program, which typically features multiple artist visits each year, has been made possible since 1995 thanks to the John D. Wallace, Jr. '78 Memorial Guest Artist Series Fund.
Smith's biography is extensive, highlighted by three published collections of poetry and a critically acclaimed memoir, a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for her poetry volume, Life on Mars, and numerous other prizes and honors, including the Academy of American Poets fellowship in 2014. She was re-appointed poet laureate for an additional year in 2018 after her initial election in 2017.
Smith receives a stipend as poet laureate for a project of her own choosing, and has focused on traveling across the country, mainly to smaller, rural venues, to champion poetry and the cultural curiosity, connections and honest conversations it can foster about societal issues that often divide. In an April 10, 2018, NYT Magazine article by Ruth Franklin, Smith has described poetry as a "re-humanizing force" and a collective experience that might offer "the kind of silence that yields clarity."
The poetry conversations on these road trips offer ways to re-examine beliefs and open one's mind to take in some new perspectives and be willing to let go of others. Her latest volume, Wade in the Water, from which she plans to read on January 4, gives voice to black and white Americans from past centuries whose letters and depositions form a powerful, and painful, historical narrative. The poems in this volume also bring the historical narrative into the present, silently asking readers to explore how and why issues of race in our society remain unresolved.
Her visit to Princeton Day School promises to continue raising awareness about poetry as a means for students to develop their voices and explore fundamental questions. Princeton Day School is honored to host Tracy K. Smith as she brings her poems to life and invites thoughtful reflection and conversation among our students from PreK through Grade 12. -Melanie Shaw
Photo: Poster announcing Tracy K. Smith's January 4 PDS visit. Rachel Eliza Griffiths, courtesy Blue Flower Arts.