Tracy K. Smith. Courtesy Library of Congress

Tracy K. Smith, a poet raised in northern California, was named the 22nd Poet Laureate Wednesday by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.

“Her work travels the world and takes on its voices; brings history and memory to life; calls on the power of literature as well as science, religion and pop culture. With directness and deftness, she contends with the heavens or plumbs our inner depths—all to better understand what makes us most human,” said Hayden in announcing the appointment.

Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and professor at Princeton University, succeeds Juan Felipe Herrera, who was born in the central valley and graduated from San Diego High School.

“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. “I am eager to share the good news of poetry with readers and future readers across this marvelously diverse country.”

The new Poet Laureate is the author of three books of poetry, including “Life on Mars” (2011), winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; “Duende” (2007), winner of the 2006 James Laughlin Award and the 2008 Essence Literary Award; and “The Body’s Question” (2003), winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Smith is also the author of a memoir, “Ordinary Light” (2015), a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in nonfiction and selected as a notable book by the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Born in Falmouth, MA, in 1972, and raised in Fairfield, CA, Smith earned a B.A. in English and American literature and Afro-American studies from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia University. From 1997 to 1999, she was a Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University.

During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. The Library of Congress keeps to a minimum the specific duties required of the Poet Laureate, who opens the literary season in the fall and closes it in the spring. In recent years, Laureates have initiated poetry projects that broaden the audiences for poetry.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.