Poetry News

Tracy K. Smith Speaks With Ryan Schnurr at Belt

By Harriet Staff
Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith has been on a journey across the United States speaking with communities about poetry's significance in our daily lives. At Belt Magazine, she talks to Ryan Schnurr about her tour and the impulses behind it, explaining that she sees her role as poet laureate as "an invitation to celebrate poetry and its uses in our day-to-day lives." From there: 

And my feeling about how to do that has been to read and talk about poems. Sometimes that means reading my own poems and talking about where they come from, and having conversations with people about what the poems cause them to wonder or notice, but mostly it has been a matter of reading the work of other American poets and entering into conversations with other readers about, you know, what these poems sound like, what they make us wonder, remember, notice, want to say. And that’s been really exciting, because I’ve found that part of my audience comes with a little bit of anxiety about how to talk about poetry, maybe with a little bit less experience than people at literary festivals with reading poetry.

And so part of the work has been to say, “You don’t need a lot of prior knowledge or preparation. These poems are trying to speak to you, and let’s just see what they accomplish. Let’s just see what you notice about them.”And people notice so many things. They find ways of making poems, no matter the topic, useful to where they are as individuals. And it’s not a matter of saying, “Oh, a poem can be about anything,” but saying, “The speaker of this poem is talking about this one thing, and I’ve experienced that. But I’ve also experienced this other thing, and that’s what this poem is making me think of. That’s what this poem feels most connected to for me.” It’s a way of talking about our lives, and it’s a way of listening to other people—listening to a voice together and going somewhere as a result of that process.

Read more at Belt.

Originally Published: November 8th, 2018