During the Fall of 2021, UCI will invite two amazing poets to our campus (virtually). Tracy K. Smith and Joy Harjo!
Tracy K. Smith was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts on April 16, 1972, and raised in Fairfield, California. She studied at Harvard University, where she joined the Dark Room Collective, a reading series for writers of color. She went on to receive her MFA from Columbia University.
Smith is the author of four poetry collections, including Wade in the Water (Graywolf Press, 2018), winner of the 2019 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in Poetry, and shortlisted for the 2018 T. S. Eliot Prize. Her debut collection, The Body’s Question (Graywolf Press, 2003), won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize in 2002. Her second book, Duende (Graywolf Press, 2007), won the 2006 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. Her collection Life on Mars (Graywolf Press, 2011) won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. She also edited the anthology American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time (Graywolf Press, 2018). Her fifth collection, Such Color: New and Selected Poems, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in October 2021.
As a poet, activist, and musician, Joy Harjo’s work has won countless awards. Most recently, Harjo became the first Native American United States Poet Laureate in history. In addition to her many books of poetry, she wrote two books for young audiences and released five award-winning albums. A member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, Harjo’s creations are often inspired by Native American stories, languages and myths.
Joy Harjo was born on May 9, 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The first of four children, Harjo’s birth name was Joy Foster. Her father was a sheet-metal worker from a famous Creek family. His great-grandfather was a Native American leader in the Red Stick War against President Andrew Jackson in the 1800s. Harjo’s mother was a waitress of mixed Cherokee, Irish, and French descent. Growing up, Harjo was surrounded by artists and musicians, but she did not know any poets. Her mother wrote songs, her grandmother played saxophone, and her aunt was an artist. These influential women inspired Harjo to explore her creative side. Harjo recalls that the very first poem she wrote was in eighth grade. However, Harjo did not start to write professionally until later in life.
Alexander, Kerri Lee. “Joy Harjo.” National Women’s History Museum, 2019. Accessed October 4th, 2021.
DIY Project for Students:
Joy Harjo’s book of poems, A Map to the Next World and Tracy K. Smith’s Pulitzer-prize winning volume, Life on Mars, call to mind other worlds, and how important it is to imagine life not just as it is but as it could be. Reflecting on Harjo’s and Smith’s work, we invite you to submit work that is your own “map to the next world.” Click Here for more info.
Tracy K. Smith: