Hailed for her "extraordinary range and ambition" by the New York Times, Tracey K. Smith will read from her recently published memoir Ordinary Light and her Pulitzer Prize–winning poetry collection Life on Mars.
Called "Transcendent ... deceptively simple, deeply affecting" by Slate, Ordinary Light is a coming-of-age story. Smith, the youngest of five children, was raised with limitless affection and a firm belief in God by a stay-at-home mother and an engineer father who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope at NASA. Ordinary Light is the story of a young woman struggling to fashion her own understanding of belief, loss, history, and what it means to be black in America. Life on Mars, with allusions to David Bowie and interplanetary travel, imagines a soundtrack for the universe to accompany the discoveries, failures, and oddities of human existence.
Born in Massachusetts, Smith earned a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.F.A. 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; and Life on Mars (2011), which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In 2014, she was awarded the Academy of American Poets fellowship. Smith teaches creative writing at Princeton University and lives in Brooklyn.