What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
Tracy K. Smith knows many readers are intimidated by line breaks. She knows people don't like identifying consonance, assonance or alliteration.
But Smith — the newly announced 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry of the United States — wants to help America push past that anxiety.
"What do you hear? What do you feel? What does this remind you of?" she asks NPR. "These are all real and valid reactions to a poem."
The poet laureate is appointed by the librarian of Congress and fills the role for a year. Smith takes the mantle from Juan Felipe Herrera, who has served two terms.
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a statement that Smith's work "brings history and memory to life" and "calls on the power of literature as well as science, religion and pop culture."
The job doesn't come with a lengthy description. The Library of Congress "keeps to a modest minimum the specific official duties," as the statement put it, so each new poet can have maximum freedom. But the library notes that many recent poet laureates have sought to expand the audience for poetry.
"I think the responsibility really is to just help raise the awareness of poetry and its value in our culture," Smith tells NPR. "To me that means talking to people — getting off the usual path of literary festivals and university reading series and talking to people who might not even yet be readers of poetry.
"I would love to go to places where people might be struggling, where people might wonder if there are voices out there for them," she says.
Read the full article about Tracy K. Smith, the new poet laureate of the U.S., by Camila Domonoske at npr.org.