Born in Massachusetts, Tracy K. Smith earned her BA from Harvard University and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. From 1997 to 1999 she held a Stegner fellowship at Stanford University. Smith is the author of three books of poetry: The Body’s Question(2003), which won the Cave Canem prize for the best first book by an African-American poet; Duende (2007), winner of the James Laughlin Award and the Essense Literary Award; and Life on Mars (2011), which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In 2014 she was awarded the Academy of American Poets fellowship.
In his review of Life on Mars, Troy Jollimore selects Smith’s poem “My god, it’s full of stars” as particularly strong, “making use of images from science and science fiction to articulate human desire and grief, as the speaker allows herself to imagine the universe:”
- … sealed tight, so nothing escapes. Not even time,
- Which should curl in on itself and loop around like smoke.
- So that I might be sitting now beside my father
- As he raises a lit match to the bowl of his pipe
- For the first time in the winter of 1959.
Dan Chiasson writes of another aspect of the collection, “The issues of power and paternalism suggest the deep ways in which this is a book about race. Smith’s deadpan title is itself racially freighted: we can’t think about one set of fifties images, of Martians and sci-fi comics, without conjuring another, of black kids in the segregated South. Those two image files are situated uncannily close to each other in the cultural cortex, but it took this book to connect them.”
Smith teaches creative writing at Princeton University and lives in Brooklyn.
Tracy K. Smith, “Duende” from Duende. Copyright © 2007 by Tracy K. Smith. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press. http://www.graywolfpress.org
Source: Duende (Graywolf Press, 2007)