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American poet and educator (1972- )

Night kneels at your feet like a gypsy glistening with jewels.

TRACY K. SMITH, "Speed of Belief"

History, with its hard spine & dog-eared
Corners, will be replaced with nuance,
Just like the dinosaurs gave way
To mounds and mounds of ice.


If I call it pain, and try to touch it
With my hands, my own life,
It lies still and the music thins,
A pulse felt for through garments.

TRACY K. SMITH, "Duende"

Several years ago, I went through a painful writer's block — a period of silence that lasted six or seven months. I'm convinced that the only thing that really saved me, and led me back to the page, was taking a class in black and white photography. In fact, living with a camera around my neck for a year, and hunting for pictures to shoot, taught me a lot about the importance of the image and its relationship to narrative in writing, something I'd struggled with before discovering photography.

TRACY K. SMITH, interview, Gulf Coast, vol. 17, number 1

Silence taunts: a dare. Everything that disappears
Disappears as if returning somewhere.

TRACY K. SMITH, "The Universe: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack"

Daylight appears just about to rise
To its feet, like a guest
Who's sat all night
Keeping time to lively music.

TRACY K. SMITH, "Serenade"

I think that believing in language – in the ability of words to bring even an imagined reality into being – is a big part of what it means to write poetry. If something like an idea or a belief is capable of being imagined or even described, then the possibility that it will be acted upon becomes much more likely. I think that many of my poems are attempts to take myself up on that premise, to step into conversation with voices and events that require me to decide something: what do I believe is right? What is the more subtle or subjective view of this situation? What must I challenge myself to understand?

TRACY K. SMITH, interview, Ploughshares Literary Magazine, May 30, 2012

Often it is a moment rather than an event that makes a poem.

TRACY K. SMITH, interview, Gulf Coast, vol. 17, number 1

When I was young, my father was lord
Of a small kingdom: a wife, a garden,
Kids for whom his word was Word.
It took years for my view to harden,
To shrink him to human size.

TRACY K. SMITH, "The Speed of Belief"

Before letting go, open yourself completely.
Wait. When the heavens fail to answer,
Curse the heavens. Wither and bend.

TRACY K. SMITH, "Drought"

I think it's quite natural to use versions of what we know or have experienced as the framework for imagining what we cannot know, and what we have not yet experienced. That's why metaphor exists.

TRACY K. SMITH, interview, Ploughshares Literary Magazine, May 30, 2012

Once I started writing all the time and interacting with poets, I made a conscious decision to identify myself as a poet. It's funny how much a single word can provide focus and direction. As soon as I claimed that identity, I started clearing more and more space for poetry in my life and applying poetic tools to other areas of my life. The world became a different place, and I witnessed it through different kinds of eyes.

TRACY K. SMITH, interview, Gulf Coast, vol. 17, number 1

When some people talk about money
They speak as if it were a mysterious lover
Who went out to buy milk and never
Came back, and it makes me nostalgic
For the years I lived on coffee and bread,
Hungry all the time, walking to work on payday
Like a woman journeying for water
From a village without a well, then living
One or two nights like everyone else
On roast chicken and wine.

TRACY K. SMITH, "The Good Life"

I think the I is paramount to poetry — it's the link between the reader and the world that the poem creates. I also think that every I is, in fact, many I's — every speaker is a kind of composite sketch of fantasy, elements of the poet's life or mind, and something completely its own that the poet cannot will into being or entirely control.

TRACY K. SMITH, interview, Gulf Coast, vol. 17, number 1

Joy is a part of my process. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that poetry, as a practice, necessitates a sense of joy. It's exhilarating to come into contact with the things we write into being. And a real sense of play and abandon – even when we are relying on hard-won technique, and even when the aim is deadly serious. How often do we get the excuse to stop, think, and then stop thinking altogether and try to listen to what sits behind our outside of our thoughts? Poets are lucky.

TRACY K. SMITH, interview, Ploughshares Literary Magazine, May 30, 2012


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