By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City University will host the 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States Tracy K. Smith and the current Oklahoma State Poet Laureate Jeanetta Calhoun Mish on June 14. The Poets Laureate will be guests for the 20th anniversary celebration of the Thatcher Hoffman Smith Poetry Series.
The celebration of poetry will begin at 7 p.m. at The Paramount Room in Film Row, 701 W. Sheridan Ave. The free event will include poetry readings and a reception with book signings, Short Order Poems, a cash bar and live music by the Issei Aoyama Trio.
Smith received her bachelor’s degree and Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Harvard University. An educator and poet, Smith 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 produced 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.
“Once I started writing all the time and interacting with poets, I made a conscious decision to identify myself as a poet,” Smith said. “It’s funny how much a single word can provide focus and direction. As soon as I claimed that identity, I started clearing more and more space for poetry in my life and applying poetic tools to other areas of my life. The world became a different place, and I witnessed it through different kinds of eyes.”
Smith 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 event.
Mish is Oklahoma’s poet laureate for 2017-18. It is an honor she shares with just 21 Oklahomans. The first Oklahoma poet laureate was Violet McDougal, in 1923. https://newsok.com/article/5543730/oklahomas-poet-laureate-jeanetta-calhoun-mish-finds-inspiration-from-home-state William Crum
Dr. Mish has published poetry, fiction, and essays in The Fiddleback, This Land, Naugatuck River Review, Concho River Review, LABOR, San Pedro River Review, Blast Furnace, Yellow Medicine Review, ProtestPoems.org, Sugar Mule, Red Dirt Chronicles, and Cybersoleil. Her 2009 poetry collection, Work Is Love Made Visible, won an Oklahoma Book Award, a Wrangler Award, and a WILLA Award from Women Writing the West.
Mish is the Director of The Red Earth Creative Writing MFA program at Oklahoma City University where she also serves as a faculty mentor in writing pedagogy and the craft of poetry.
During the event, State Poet Laureate Mish will introduce Smith while discussing the role of poetry in society.
Over the past 20 years, OCU’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 Harbour Winn. Ph.D., Montessori Teacher, Professor Emeritus of English Montessori.
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.