Tracy K. Smith (Courtesy Photo)

Tracy K. Smith (Courtesy Photo)

Poetry in motion: U.S. Poet Laureate comes to Juneau

Tracy K. Smith will read, talk with audience Wednesday at state library

  • By Ben Hohenstatt Capital City Weekly
  • Thursday, August 30, 2018 12:41am
  • Poetry

If you’ve ever wanted to talk to a poet laureate, your chance is coming up.

Wednesday, Aug. 29, U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith will be in Juneau for her second-term project, “American Conversations: Celebrating Poems in Rural Communities.”

There will be a public reception at 5 p.m. in the atrium of the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Alaska State Museum, and at 6 p.m. Smith will offer a public reading in the lecture hall.

“We love having events like this here,” said Patience Frederiksen, director of Alaska division of libraries, archives and museums. “What’s really exciting about Tracy Smith coming to Juneau is her presentation includes audience participation, it isn’t just a straight reading.”

The reading and discussion will be recorded and later broadcast on 360 North.

Alaska State Writer Laureate Ernestine Hayes will also be on hand to introduce Smith.

“It’s a real honor to participate on any level in this visit by Tracy K. Smith to Juneau,” Hayes told the Capital City Weekly via email. “I’m sure that all Juneau writers want to show our appreciation and welcome her with words that communicate how honored we are, and I am no exception — this is a wonderful opportunity to meet someone of her stature — her words will be part of the American literary dialogue for many generations.”

The public will be invited to have its own dialogue with the poet when Smith shares a new anthology, “American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time.” It includes work from 50 living American poets from different backgrounds. The poems evoke America’s history of diversity and offer divergent takes on life in the U.S. Subject matter includes loss, immigration and injustice.

Smith will give away copies of the anthology and talk about some of the poems with those in attendance.

“It’s going to be a discussion,” Frederiksen said.

Smith’s visit is part of a nationwide effort organized with state centers for the book, humanities councils and congressional offices.

The country-traversing project is a continuation of efforts made in her first term as poet laureate and also echoes some of Smith’s personal life.

Smith was born in Massachusetts and grew up in California. She has expressed enthusiasm for the taking poetry to some roads less traveled.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to take what I consider to be the good news of poetry to parts of the country where literary festivals don’t always go,” Smith said in a release. “Poetry is something that’s relevant to everyone’s life, whether they’re habitual readers of poetry or not.”

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