New Poet Laureate: Tracy K. Smith

We have a new U.S. Poet Laureate: Tracy K. Smith! In 2011, her book of poetry Life on Mars won a Pulitzer. She currently teaches at Princeton.

Some things you might not know about this position:

  • The official title for this position is: Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.
  • The librarian of Congress (currently Carla Hayden) appoints the position.
  • This position started in 1937 and the stipend accompanying it is only $35,000.

Here’s a link to NPR’s article “Tracy K. Smith, New U.S. Poet Laureate, Calls Poems Her ‘Anchor'”


picture from NPR

The Good Life

Tracy K. Smith
When some people talk about money
They speak as if it were a mysterious lover
Who went out to buy milk and never
Came back, and it makes me nostalgic
For the years I lived on coffee and bread,
Hungry all the time, walking to work on payday
Like a woman journeying for water
From a village without a well, then living
One or two nights like everyone else
On roast chicken and red wine.
New Poet Laureate: Tracy K. Smith

A Poem: “Summer at Blue Creek, North Carolina” by Jack Gilbert

Summer at Blue Creek, North Carolina
Jack Gilbert

There was no water at my grandfather’s
when I was a kid and would go for it
with two zinc buckets. Down the path,
past the cow by the foundation where
the fine people’s house was before
they arranged to have it burned down.
To the neighbor’s cool well. Would
come back with pails too heavy,
so my mouth pulled out of shape.
I see myself, but from the outside.
I keep trying to feel who I was,
and cannot. Hear clearly the sound
the bucket made hitting the sides
of the stone well going down,
but never the sound of me.

A Poem: “Summer at Blue Creek, North Carolina” by Jack Gilbert

Friday Five: Five Reasons to Join the Pennsylvania Poetry Society

Five Reasons to Join the Pennsylvania Poetry Society (or at least check out what they’re doing).

I have been a member of the Pennsylvania Poetry Society for three years, but only recently attended a spring meeting.  This was such a fun experience, it prompted me to write this post, with 5 reasons to join PPS, Inc.

  1. The Pennsylvania Poetry Society holds two meetings each year with workshops for developing your inner poet.  These workshops provide time to talk with other poets, share work, and work with poets from throughout the state. The most recent workshop featured Dana Sauers. 
  2. Meeting people who are also interested in reading and writing poetry. From their twitter page: “Founded in 1949, the PPS assists its members in the development of their craft and fosters an intelligent appreciation of poetry.”
  3. The PPS also runs an annual contest with 17 categories.  Members have the opportunity to enter 3 of those 17 that non-members cannot. The winning poems are published each year.
  4. Joining this group allows can give you notice about many other contests, which they share on Facebook and Twitter.
  5. Joining this group will help you if you’re trying to work on your own writing. Each newsletter (produced four times a year) provides a challenge for writing poetry, and there’s also an online publication each month, called Pennessence. There are plenty of opportunities to challenge yourself and publish your writing.

Posted by Kate, Blog Editor and Book Reviewer for PCTELA

Friday Five: Five Reasons to Join the Pennsylvania Poetry Society

A Poem: Camomile Tea by Katherine Mansfield

Camomile Tea
Katherine Mansfield

Outside the sky is light with stars;
There’s a hollow roaring from the sea.
And, alas! for the little almond flowers,
The wind is shaking the almond tree.

How little I thought, a year ago,
In the horrible cottage upon the Lee
That he and I should be sitting so
And sipping a cup of chamomile tea.

Light as feathers the witches fly,
The horn of the moon is plain to see;
By a firefly under a jonquil flower
A goblin toasts a bumble-bee.

We might be fifty, we might be five,
So snug, so compact, so wise are we!
Under the kitchen-table leg
My knee is pressing against his knee.

A Poem: Camomile Tea by Katherine Mansfield

A poem for today: “Mr T” by Terrance Hayes

Mr T–
Terrance Hayes

A man made of scrap muscle & the steam
engine’s imagination, white feathers
flapping in each lobe for the skull’s migration,
should the need arise. Sometimes drugged
& duffled (by white men) into a cockpit
bound for the next adventure. And liable
to crush a fool’s face like newsprint; headlines
of Hollywood blood and wincing. Half Stepin’ Fetchit,
half John Henry. What were we, the skinny B-boys,
to learn from you? How to hulk through Chicago
in a hedgerow afro, an ox-grunt kicking dust
behind the teeth; those eighteen glammering
gold chains around the throat of pity,
that fat hollow medallion like the sun on a leash —


A poem for today: “Mr T” by Terrance Hayes

Poem: “The Poet’s Occasional Alternative” by Grace Paley

The Poet’s Occasional Alternative

Grace Paley

I was going to write a poem
I made a pie instead it took
about the same amount of time
of course the pie was a final
draft a poem would have had some
distance to go days and weeks and
much crumpled paper

the pie already had a talking
tumbling audience among small
trucks and a fire engine on
the kitchen floor

everybody will like this pie
it will have apples and cranberries
dried apricots in it many friends
will say why in the world did you
make only one

this does not happen with poems

because of unreportable
sadnesses I decided to
settle this morning for a re-
sponsive eatership I do not
want to wait a week a year a
generation for the right
consumer to come along

Poem: “The Poet’s Occasional Alternative” by Grace Paley

Demarcations by Karl Elder (haikus on punctuation)

Here’s a series of poems I like to use in class before we talk about punctuation (an oft-ignored topic in essay writing). I give my students the haikus without their titles, and then ask them to figure out what punctuation mark each haiku is about. Then, I ask them to write a haiku about one of their favorite punctuation marks.  Then, we discuss punctuation in writing, and how the use of punctuation can impact meaning.

Karl Elder

The Hyphen
Had you a whole line
of them you’d have your own train.
Imagine the freight.

The Colon
Eyes of a dead man
lying on his side, looking
into a bright light.

The Comma
Ah, giant embryo
with tail, what say you—yin or
yang, you little shrimp.

The Semicolon
A Spanish peanut,
a cashew—which’s the best fit
for the appendix?

The Question Mark
Eerie character—
he whose lobe of an artist’s
left ear is severed.

The Exclamation Point
Dah-dit. A signal
in Morse code turned on end: N,
you must solve for it.

The Period
How we’ve come to draw
with such sheer economy
the perfect circle.

Posted by Kate, Blog Editor and Book Reviewer for PCTELA

Demarcations by Karl Elder (haikus on punctuation)