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U.S. Poet Laureate Named 2018 Winner of Hall-Kenyon Prize in American Poetry

Renowned Poet Tracy K. Smith to Appear, Give Readings in New Hampshire



New Hampshire Public Radio is proud to announce United States Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith as the 2018 winner of the Hall-Kenyon Prize in American Poetry.

The award honors the late Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon—married poets who lived and wrote at Hall’s ancestral home in Wilmot, N.H. Hall is a former poet laureate of the United States and a recipient of the 2010 National Medal of the Arts, and Kenyon is a former poet laureate of New Hampshire. After a long and lauded career, Donald Hall passed away this past June.

Smith will accept the award Wednesday, Dec. 12, at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, N.H. The evening will include a reading from Smith as well as a remembrance of Donald Hall.  

"No poet in America believes more deeply in the power of poetry to heal,” Wesley McNair—a native New Englander, Robert Frost Prize winner and one of the founding poets of the Hall-Kenyon Prize in American Poetry—said of Smith. “At a time when the divisions of our politics seem to be fixed, she writes poems that open our minds and hearts to our shared history and humanity. To read her is to put aside what we thought we knew and start again."

Born in Falmouth, Mass., and raised in Fairfield, Calif., Smith used poetry as a means of reflection on the trials of early adulthood, being a young black woman in the suburbs, and the tragedy of loss. Smith won a Pulitzer Prize for her 2011 collection Life on Mars. She currently serves as the Director of the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University. Her memoir, Ordinary Light, was a National Book Award finalist in 2015, and Wade in the Water won a Forward Prize for Best Collection 2018.

As a second-term poet laureate, initially appointed in 2017 and reappointed in March of this year, Smith has dedicated much of her efforts to sharing poetry in more rural communities throughout the country—areas where the literary art is less widely promoted and discussed. During her first year-long term, Smith focused on visits to the South and Southwest—including trips to New Mexico, South Carolina and Kentucky. Smith’s second term will continue her “American Conversations: Celebrating Poems in Rural Communities” project, bringing discourse to rural places across the country. During her visits, she will also share elements of her latest work, published in September, an anthology titled American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time

“Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon were two remarkable New Hampshire artists. NHPR is proud to sponsor The Hall-Kenyon Prize as a tribute to their works and lives, and as a way to honor newer talents in the poetic arts,” said Mark Kaplan, Interim Executive Director at NHPR. “Many aspects of our programming celebrate arts and culture, and recognize the value of diverse voices in the arts. As a largely rural state with a thriving, though understated arts scene, we fully appreciate the work Tracy K. Smith has put into promoting access to poetry and creative expression in lesser-served communities.”

Continuing her mission to bring poetry to a wider audience, Smith is also slated to host American Public Media’s venture into poetry—a podcast and radio module titled The Slowdown—where she will welcome diverse voices and offer a moment of quiet reflection to listeners’ busy schedules. A podcast version of The Slowdown will launch Monday, Nov. 26. The radio program—a partnership between The Poetry Foundation and the Library of Congress—is slated to launch Monday, Jan. 14.


Date: Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018

Time: 7-8:30 p.m.

Location: The Currier Museum of Art, 150 Ash Street, Manchester, N.H.

Books: available on-site for purchase and signing by the poet.

Cost: $10 general admission, $5 students

To purchase tickets:


Purchase the night of the event from NHPR at the Currier Museum of Art.

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