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OKCU Hosts Poets Laureate

Tracy Smith
Tracy K. Smith

Oklahoma City University will host the 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States Tracy K. Smith and current Oklahoma State Poet Laureate Jeanetta Calhoun Mish on June 14 for a 20th-anniversary celebration of the Thatcher Hoffman Smith Poetry Series. The event, free to the public, will include poetry readings and a reception with book signings, Short Order Poems, a cash bar and live music by the Issei Aoyama Trio. The celebration of poetry will begin at 7 p.m. and will be held at The Paramount Room in Film Row, 701 W. Sheridan Ave.

Having received her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and Master of Fine Arts in creative writing, Smith is currently an educator and poet. She is the recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award, the Cave Canem Prize, the 2005 Whiting Award for Poetry, the 2016 Robert Creeley Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2012 for her book “Life on Mars.” She was inducted as poet laureate of the United States in 2017.

Smith started writing at a young age, writing her first poem “Humor” in the fifth grade. With encouragement from her teachers and professors, and with inspiration from artists such as Elizabeth Bishop, Rita Dove and Luie Brock-Broido, Smith focused on poetry throughout her education. After finishing her MFA, she held the position of Stegner Fellow in Poetry for two years at Stanford University. She currently teaches creative writing at Princeton University.

Her books of poetry are “The Body’s Question,” “Duende,” “Life on Mars,” “Ordinary Light” and the newly released collection “Wade in the Water.” Full Circle Bookstore will sell copies of Smith’s books at the Oklahoma City event.

Over the past 20 years, OKCU’s Thatcher Hoffman Smith Series has brought 22 nationally celebrated poets to central Oklahoma for readings and workshops. The first poet of the series was Robert Pinksy, who visited in 1999. The series was founded by Professor Emeritus Harbour Winn.

While the poetry readings are usually held on the OKCU campus, the June 14 event is being held downtown to offer a different kind of celebration of poetry for the city. State Poet Laureate Mish will introduce Smith via a conversation about the role of poetry in society.

For more information about the events, visit okcufilmlit.org, call 405-208-5707 or send an email to filmlit@okcu.edu. The Thatcher Hoffman Smith Poetry Series is an event hosted by OCU’s Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film & Literature, in collaboration with the Petree College of Arts and Sciences, the OCU Department of English and Modern Languages, the Oklahoma Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain and Full Circle Bookstore.