U.S. Poet Laureate Visiting Black Hills Oct. 5-6

Free Events Held in Spearfish, Sturgis

U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith will unveil a new anthology featuring the works of 50 living American poets of different ages and backgrounds during a visit to the Black Hills Oct. 5-6. The visit is part of Smith's project "American Conversations: Celebrating Poems in Rural Communities."

Smith will participate in public events in Spearfish on Friday, Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. at the Matthews Opera House & Arts Center and on Saturday, Oct. 6 at the Sturgis Public Library at 10 a.m. (continental breakfast provided at 9 a.m.). The events are co-hosted by the South Dakota Humanities Council, a statewide non-profit that provides humanities programming to South Dakotans. The council also houses the South Dakota Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress

During these events, citizens can meet and interact with Smith, who is touring four different states to unveil the anthology "American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time" and engage Americans in conversations about poetry. She will give away copies of the anthology during the Black Hills events and will be available to sign copies. Smith will read selections of her own poetry and pieces from "American Journal" and will discuss the poems with audience members.

What You Need to Know: Tracy K. Smith's South Dakota Visit

  • Friday, Oct. 5, 5 p.m. The Matthews Opera House & Arts Center (612 N. Main St.) in Spearfish
  • Saturday, Oct. 6, 10 a.m. Sturgis Public Library (1040 Harley Davidson Way) in Sturgis (*Continental breakfast on the patio at 9 a.m.)

Both events are free and open to the public. Tickets are not required, and seating is not reserved.

Please email sturgispubliclibrary@sturgisgov.com or call the library at 605-347-2624 if you'll be attending the breakfast portion of the Sturgis event. RSVP is encouraged but not required. Also feel free to call the library if you have questions about the event.

Visit www.matthewsopera.com for more information about the venue and click here for more about the event. Please call 605-642-7973 if you have questions.

For more information about her South Dakota trip, including post-event recordings and photos, visit http://www.read.gov/americanconversations/southdakota.html and subscribe to the South Dakota Humanities Council e-newsletter list. Posts about the event will contain the hashtag #AmericanConversations. Attendees are encouraged to post on social media about the event using that hashtag.

American Journal

"American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time" was published in September by Graywolf Press in association with the Library of Congress with an introduction by Smith. Poems that Smith selected for the anthology offer 50 different outlooks on America, including stories of loss, experiences of immigrants, outcries of injustice and poems that evoke history and celebrate America's diversity.

"American Journal" takes its title from a poem by Robert Hayden, the first African American appointed as the U.S. Poet Laureate. Poets included in the anthology include past Poets Laureate Natasha Trethewey and Charles Wright, as well as award-winning poets Mark Doty, Ross Gay, Terrance Hayes, Laura Kasischke, Mary Szybist and others.

"These fifty poems – culled from living American poets of different ages, backgrounds and aesthetic approaches, and with different views of what it feels like to be alive – welcome you to listen and be surprised, amused, consoled," Smith wrote in the introduction.

"There's something else these fifty poems are up to. As the title 'American Journal' suggests, they are contemplating what it feels like to live, work, love, strive, raise a family, and survive many kinds of loss in this vast and varied nation."

U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith will visit the Black Hills Oct. 5-6, 2018.

Anthology Part of Smith's Second-term Project

The anthology is the centerpiece of Smith's second-term project as the nation's poet laureate for 2018-2019, titled "American Conversations: Celebrating Poems in Rural Communities." Smith's visits to South Dakota, Alaska, Maine and Louisiana this fall are part of the project, which is co-sponsored by the Library's Poetry and Literature Center and the affiliate Centers for the Book. More information about the project can be found on the Library's read.gov website.

Since the Librarian of Congress appointed her the 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, Smith has focused on connecting with rural communities. This past spring, she visited New Mexico, South Carolina and Kentucky as part of a pilot, and for her second term the Library's Poetry and Literature Center is working with state Centers for the Book, state humanities councils and congressional offices across the country to coordinate additional visits. For more information about Smith's tour, visit read.gov/americanconversations.

"I'm thrilled for the opportunity to spend a second term taking part in conversations about poetry and life in rural America," Smith said. "In this upcoming year, I'll be able to share copies of 'American Journal,' which I hope might serve to foster ongoing conversations about poems and poetry between people of all ages."

About Tracy K. Smith

Smith is the author of four books of poetry published by Graywolf Press, including "Wade in the Water" 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.

Born in Falmouth, Massachusetts, in 1972 and raised in Fairfield, California, 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. Smith has taught at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York, at the University of Pittsburgh and at Columbia University. She is currently the Roger S. Berlind '52 Professor in the Humanities and director of the creative writing program at Princeton University.

About the Poet Laureate Position

The Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1937 when Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library. Since then, many of the nation's most eminent poets have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of Public Law 99-194 (Dec. 20, 1985), as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry – a position which the law states "is equivalent to that of Poet Laureate of the United States.

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. For more information on the Poet Laureate, visit loc.gov/poetry/laureate.html.

Congress created the Library's Center for the Book in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books and reading. It has become a national force for reading and literacy promotion with affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The affiliates meet every spring at the Library of Congress to exchange ideas. For more information, visit read.gov.

About the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the world's largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States – and extensive materials from around the world – both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Members of the public can explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov, and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.