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Poet Tracy K. Smith has achieved a great deal already but her recent appointment as the U.S. Poet Laureate tops the list of notable achievements. The Princeton professor hopes to use the platform and poetry to generate new conversations about diversity.

Smith, 45, was born in Massachusetts but raised primarily in Fairfield, California. Her father was an engineer who worked on the Hubble space telescope and her mother was a teacher. As a fifth-grader, Smith began writing poetry after reading works by Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson. A teacher saw her early works and encouraged her progression.

The Harvard University and Columbia University graduate formerly taught at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York. She has also won several awards for her works, including the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her collection, Life On Mars.

Smith has also won the 2002 Cave Canem prize for her book The Body’s Question, an award given to the best debut book by an African-American poet. Other honors include the 2005 Whiting Award given to emerging writers, and the 2006 James Laughlin award given to the best second volume of a poet for her book, Duende.

She resides in Princeton, New Jersey with her husband and their three children.

PHOTO: Princeton University

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