By Frederick H. Lowe
The Library of Congress has named Tracy K. Smith, a Pulitzer Prize winner, the nation’s 22nd Poet Laureate and her recognition is being trumpeted in more than the usual places.
After being named poet laureate, Smith told National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” “Poetry gives us a vocabulary for feeling that doesn’t easily fit into language. And it’s not a static vocabulary because we are beings constantly changing and contradicting ourselves and growing and coming up against problems that feel completely new or happiness that feel completely new […] We also find a deeper connection to others by acknowledging the feelings that they house as well. And so, to me, a poem is a real vehicle for empathy.”
Smith’s collection of poems, titled “Life on Mars,” won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The work is an elegy for her father, an engineer who worked on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
When “Life on Mars” won the Pulitzer, a Q&A with Smith was featured on the on the front page of Space.com, an online magazine that publishes articles on space flight, science, astronomy and the search for life on other planets.
In the Q&A, she is asked if she believes there is life on Mars.
“I do. I don’t know how anyone can see the Hubble “Deep Field Image” and not feel like something else is going about its business out there,” she said.
Smith, who was born April 16, 1972, in Falmouth, Massachusetts, and raised Fairfield, California, is the youngest of five children.
She studied at Harvard University and earned an MFA from Columbia University.
Smith is director of Princeton University’s creative writing program. She lives in New Jersey.