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Tracy K. Smith, a Pulitzer Award Winner Declared the New U.S Poet Laureate

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BY SUSAN JOHNES

The U.S. Library of Congress on Wednesday crowned Tracy K. Smith as the country’s 22nd Poet Laureate. The position is the highest honor in the practice of poetry in the United States.

Ms. Smith who has been in this creativity game for over 30 years will now join the long list of legendary poets who have received the prize in the past such as Billy Collins, Louise Gluck, Rita Dove, W.S Merwin, and Charles Simic amongst others.

She takes over from her immediate predecessor Juan Felipe Herrera who has been in the role for two terms for 2015 and 2016. Of course, this is not the first award Smith is receiving for her publications.

Tracy K. Smith won the Pulitzer Award in 2012 for her work “Life of Mars” before clinching the National Book Award in 2015 for her autobiography “Ordinary Light.”

In essence, a poet laureate’s work is to spearhead a wider acceptance of poetry through writing and reading. She is already full of expectations in taking the art to greater heights in the different communities. As the country’s Poet Laureate she will be entitled to an annual stipend worth $35000 and another $5000 for travel expenses.

While speaking to the Fortune, she said that her ideas about poetry would develop further as a result of being in different communities. Smith promised to keep writing poems and continue teaching as before. As she takes over the new responsibility not much about her will change.

Similarly, she told the NPR that her role would be to encourage widespread awareness of poetry and worth in our culture. She added, “To me that means talking to the people- getting off the usual path of literary festivals, University reading series and talking to people who might not even yet be readers of poetry.”

Carla Haynes from the U.S. Library of Congress in a statement commended her for the milestone. Haynes voiced her recognition of how Ms. Smith’s work had significant influence in changing the lives of people.

Tracy K. Smith, a Massachusetts native did her Bachelors degree (English & Afro-American Studies) at Harvard University before moving on for Masters in Fine Arts (Creative Writing) at Columbia University.

However, her journey in poetry dates back to grade five in Elementary School. Indeed, Ms. Smith deserves the appointment considering her impressive profile and extraordinary ambition.

Despite her enviable record she still looks up to other people who inspire her through their work. For example, Ophelia Daniel the Executive Director of Partners in Health who she considers a role model because of her charity works.

Tracy K. Smith, 45 is currently a professor of creative writing at Princeton University.

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