Tracy K. Smith


Tracy K. Smith was born in Massachusetts and raised in northern California. She earned a BA from Harvard University and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. From 1997 to 1999 she held a Stegner fellowship at Stanford University. Smith is the author of four 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; Life on Mars (2011), winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; and Wade in the Water (2018). In 2014 she was awarded the Academy of American Poets fellowship. She has also written a memoir, Ordinary Light (2015), which was a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction. In June 2017, Smith was named U.S. poet laureate. She teaches creative writing at Princeton University and hosts American Public Media's daily radio program and podcast The Slowdown, which is sponsored by the Poetry Foundation. Source  


One’s is to feed. One’s is to cleave.

One’s to be doubled over under greed.

One’s is strife. One’s to be strangled by life.

One’s to be called and to rise.

One’s to stare fire in the eye.

One’s is bondage to pleasure.

One’s to be held captive by power.

One’s to drive a nation to its naked knees

in war. One’s is the rapture of stolen hours.

One’s to be called yet cower.

One’s is to defend the dead.

One’s to suffer until ego is shed.

One’s is to dribble the nectar of evil.

One’s but to roll a stone up a hill.

One’s to crouch low

over damp kindling in deep snow

coaxing the thin plume

of cautious smoke.

One’s is only to shiver.

One’s is only to blow.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Faith & Hope

Strength & Resilience

Literary Devices:


visually descriptive or figurative language, especially in a literary work

Internal Rhyme

A rhyme involving a word in the middle of a line and another at the end of the line or in the middle of the next.


a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times

Slant Rhyme

A rhyme where the words have similar sounds in their stressed syllables.