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AP Literature: Poetry: Smith, Tracy K.

Poet

Bio

Tracy K. Smith was born in Massachusetts and raised in northern California. She earned a BA from Harvard University and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. From 1997 to 1999 she held a Stegner fellowship at Stanford University. Smith is the author of three books of poetry: The Body's Question (2003), which won the Cave Canem prize for the best first book by an African-American poet; Duende (2007), winner of the James Laughlin Award and the Essense Literary Award; Life on Mars (2011), winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; and Wade in the Water (forthcoming, April 2018). In 2014 she was awarded the Academy of American Poets fellowship. She has also written a memoir, Ordinary Light (2015), which was a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction.

In June 2017, Smith was named U.S. poet laureate. She teaches creative writing at Princeton University.

Work

Semi-Splendid
by Tracy K. Smith

You flinch. Something flickers, not fleeing your face. My

Heart hammers at the ceiling, telling my tongue

To turn it down. Too late. The something climbs, leaps, is

Falling now across us like the prank of an icy, brainy

Lord. I chose the wrong word. I am wrong for not choosing

Merely to smile, to pull you toward me and away from

What you think of as that other me, who wanders lost among ...    

Among whom? The many? The rare? I wish you didn’t care.
 

I watch you watching her. Her very shadow is a rage

That trashes the rooms of your eyes. Do you claim surprise

At what she wants, the poor girl, pelted with despair,

Who flits from grief to grief? Isn’t it you she seeks? And

If you blame her, know that she blames you for choosing

Not her, but me. Love is never fair. But do we — should we — care?

 

Books