Tracy K. Smith, the United States’ Poet Laureate, has resonated with younger generations and specifically among people of color. Smith touches on matters of the current political climate in America, our relationships with others and our relationship with the past, personally and historically and its effects.
Smith read some of her poetry live on campus in Hawkins Hall on February 27 and hundreds of people showed up to hear her speak.
An overwhelming favorite among students was the poem she compiled from letters written by soldiers and family of soldiers during the Civil War that is from her most recent collection, Wade in the Water.
The language used in these letters was painfully beautiful and conveyed to readers that life is poetry and it affects our own lives more than we understand, even though the events of the Civil War happened over a 150 years ago.
This poem stood out as a favorite because of the vulnerability and bravery that was conveyed in the letters—history repeats itself and the emotions in those letters represents what a majority of our country is feeling at the moment.
It’s important to acknowledge that a lot of what holds people back from diving into poetry is having preconceived notions of what poetry is about, and what they only see of it on the surface.
Sophomore English major Marie Alcis said, “I feel like people don’t understand, like, rap is also poetry. I feel like people don’t understand the types of poetry that’s out there, they don’t understand that a lot of things that they listen to or love, or interested in are forms of poetry. Our lives are poetry, life is a poem, that’s just what it is.”
Instagram has been most advantageous in paving the way for modern poets to promote their work with a most popular example being R.M. Drake.
Drake started posting his shorter poems, more so written as verse, on Instagram and ultimately gained popularity through social media. He then published his own collections, Broken Flowers and Moon Theory and most recently published a collection with another acclaimed poet, r.h. Sin, the collection called Empty Bottles Full of Stories. Drake’s selection of poems is presented in the first half of the collection and r.h. Sin in the second half, and it’s stunning.
Other widely known poets include Amanda Lovelace, Lang Leav, and Rupi Kaur. Topics covered in their work are love and loss, women empowerment and the frustration about our current social and political climate.
Women empowerment has had a monumental effect on poetry, due to our current society and the constant fight for equality. This is shown in a poem written by Amanda Lovelace, titled “women are some kind of magic.” It reads, “I’m pretty sure you have stardust running through those veins.” The message to her female audience is that they are unique in their own way and are encouraged to embrace their individuality. This is just one example of her work that embraces woman-kind and sisterhood.
This subject matter resonates with people because these are real problems and situations we still encounter today. Young individuals tend to believe that authors who are considered to be “classics” have written about experiences that we don’t connect to anymore. However, these authors have influenced a great portion of modern writers in this day and age.
Classic poets like e.e. cummings, William Shakespeare and Pablo Neruda wrote about things that they believed were sacred and important to them, and if one digs deep they will discover that our feelings haven’t changed much from hundreds of years ago. Modern writers are writing about the same things, just in a different world and in different expressions.
Modern poets, like Tracy K. Smith, have shown us the beauty in poetry and how it truly reflects our internal struggles and the struggle of our daily lives.