Tracy K. Smith is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Life on Mars, the launch party for which is tonight at powerHouse Arena. She teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University and lives in Boerum Hill.
For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
Robert Hass introduced a reading I gave at UC Berkeley a few years back, and he described my work as being about “Saudade, the longing for place, for love, for order, for a morally comprehensible universe.” That sounds about right to me.
What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
I recently read Kyung-sook Shin’s gorgeous and heartbreaking novel Please Look After Mom. It broke my heart and, I think, enlarged something in it. It’s a beautiful, clear, honest and courageous book.
Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all (or novel) would you sprint to the store to buy (along with a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius so that the checkout clerk doesn’t look at you screwy)?
I would be thrilled for anything written by David Bowie.
Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
Yes, and it made me very eager to finish my first book and let someone take me out to a celebratory dinner.
What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
Thoughtful conversation about topics that my work might be gesturing toward. A bit of laughter. And the chance, for me, to learn something new: books, films, music, some pop-culture morsel.
Have you ever written anything that you’d like to take back?
Generally I wait a long time before sending poems out for publication, but a few years ago, I published a batch of just-finished poems. I imagine it must be nice for the poems to have a life of their own now, but they and I are no longer in touch.