In a recent and beautiful article in New York Times Magazine, U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith tells of her desire to let poetry become a “rehumanizing force” in the polarized days in which we find ourselves.
“This is a strange period where, nationally, we’re being reminded or convinced of the great divisions that separate coastal and urban communities from the central and rural communities.” But, she says, “I’ve always distrusted that.”
Thus she’s on a national tour in her official capacity as U.S. Poet Laureate, officially dubbed PLOTUS. She is holding readings in far-flung locales, where urban writers seldom trade their wares. Instead of assuming distrust and partisanship, Smith believes “there are lots of places where we have something very clear, compelling and welcome to say to one another.”
But such compelling and hospitable speech cannot be heard at the fever pitch of contemporary political polemics. It is, instead, says Ruth Franklin, “the meditative state of mind a poem induces” which Smith believes can be “an antidote to the din of daily life, in which our phones continuously buzz with news alerts perfectly algorithmed to reinforce our biases.”
So, “more than anything now, I’m looking for the kind of silence that yields clarity,” Smith says. “I’m interested in the way our voices sound when we dip below the decibel level of politics.”
But it is not mere sentimentality which Smith wants poetry to yield. “You want a poem to unsettle something,” she says. “There’s a deep and interesting kind of troubling that poems do, which is to say: ‘This is what you think you’re certain of, and I’m going to show you how that’s not enough. There’s something more that might be even more rewarding if you’re willing to let go of what you already know.’ ”
It is this sort of quiet unsettling—which assumes that we have something “clear and compelling and welcoming to say to each other”—which is effected by Smith’s new volume Wade in the Water.
So we are pleased to announce that Ms. Smith will be reading from and discussing this recent work at our season opener on June 7. Her poetry will be set alongside of and in conversation with the canon of recent Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan.
A feast and all manner of festivity. Come join. Get your tickets now by clicking here.
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