On Wednesday, the United States Library of Congress named Pulitizer Prize winner, Tracy K. Smith, the 22nd poet laureate.
Smith has been writing poetry for more than 30 years and published three books of verse. Now, she will follow in the footsteps of some of the most well-known U.S. poets, including Rita Dove, Louise Gluck, Billy Collins, W.S. Merwin, Charles Simic, and Juan Felipe Herrera.
"Smith shows us through these poems how to think and feel our way through these big ideas. It’s wonderful that her poetry can be so big and sprawling in its themes, and at the same time laser-focused in its words,” said Carla Haynes, Librarian of Congress in a statement.
Smith has won many awards for her publications, including the Pulitzer in 2012 for Life of Mars, and a National Book Award finalist for her memoir Ordinary Light in 2015. She is currently the director of the creative writing program at Princeton University and plans to continue her duties during and after her role as poet laureate.
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"My ideas about poetry will grow and develop as a result of being in different communities, but I'll keep writing poems and keep teaching and that won't change," Smith told Fortune.
The U.S. poet laureate receives a $35,000 annual stipend, plus $5,000 for travel expenses which is funded by a private grant from Archer M. Huntington. The laureate’s job, in essence, to foster greater appreciation for the reading and writing of poetry, according to Smith.
Smith looks forwards to taking poetry to communities that haven't had regular access to it and talking to people about what poems make them feel and think, she told Fortune.
She looks up many women, including Elizabeth Bishop, a past poet laureate who sat in her exact seat from 1949-1950; and Ophelia Dahl executive director of Partners in Health, who Smith considers a role model for her charity work.
“I am profoundly honored. 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,” said Smith in a statement. “I am eager to share the good news of poetry with readers and future readers across this marvelously diverse country.”