The Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana is pleased to announce that United States Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith will visit Louisiana December 14-15 as the fourth and final state included in her fall tour, “American Conversations: Celebrating Poems in Rural Communities.” Smith’s first event will be held on Friday evening, December 14, at the Jean Lafitte Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux with a one-hour reception beginning at 6 p.m. and the program to immediately following at 7 p.m. Her final event will be held on Saturday, December 15, from 10-11 a.m. at the South Lafourche Branch Library in Cut Off. The events are free and open to the public.
“We are honored that U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith has selected Louisiana as one of the stops across the United States for the ‘American Conversations’ project,” said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. “I applaud her dedication to connecting with rural communities across the country, and especially the vibrant communities we have here in Louisiana.”
During the events, Smith will read selections of her own poetry and pieces from American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time and will engage audiences in discussions of the poems and the power of poetry. American Journal, was published this fall by Graywolf Press and The Library of Congress and features the works of 50 living American poets of different backgrounds, offering 50 different outlooks on America. Complimentary copies of the anthology will be available to all program attendees.
“The mission of the Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana is to stimulate public interest in books and reading. We do this through a range of programs and events, and perhaps are most well-known for hosting the Louisiana Book Festival. We are thrilled by the opportunity to host U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith and help her bring her contagious excitement for poetry to our state,” said State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton. “I couldn’t agree more with Smith’s belief that poetry helps readers slow down and think more passionately and deeply, that poetry inspires us to see the world from another’s eyes, and that poetry is for everyone.”
Smith will also give a private reading to members of the United Houma Nation, including Principal Chief August Creppel, at their main office in Houma during her visit to Louisiana’s Bayou Country.
“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. “Poetry is something that is relevant to everyone’s life, whether they’re habitual readers of poetry or not.”
Smith was appointed as the 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States on June 14, 2017, by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, and was reappointed to a second term on March 22, 2018. She is the author of four books of poetry, including Wade in the Water published in April 2018; 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.
The visits have been organized in conjunction with the Poetry and Literature Center in the Library of Congress, and are being hosted with the generous support of the Lafourche Parish Public Library and the National Park Service in Louisiana. Since the beginning of the fall, Smith has visited Alaska, South Dakota, and Maine. This past spring, as part of a pilot for the project, she visited New Mexico, South Carolina, and Kentucky. Follow the visits on social media with the hashtag #AmericanConversations. For more information, please visit http://www.read.gov/americanconversations/louisiana.